Aug 16, 2018

Exclusive: Steve Bannon's new film, "Trump @ War"

Here's a first look for Axios readers at the trailer for a forthcoming film, "Trump @ War," that Steve Bannon will release on Sept. 9.

Why it matters: The film is part of a drive by Bannon to galvanize Republicans to embrace the midterms as Trump's "first re-elect."

  • The film is designed to portray Trump supporters as being under siege — complete with clips of CNN’s Don Lemon, and footage of a "Make America Great Again" hat being burned.
  • Bannon shared the trailer as he announced a new political group aimed at turning out Republicans this fall, Citizens of the American Republic (COAR).

Bannon, describing the film, told me: "How jacked do we think Trump will be when he sees this?"

  • Bannon added: "If you’re a deplorable, you’ll literally standing on your chair with your pitchfork saying: 'I’ve got to get people out to vote.'"
  • Bannon said the film — from his longtime production company, Victory Films — will last about 75 minutes, and will include interviews with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; Dr. Seb Gorka, an alumnus of Trump’s White House; and about 18 others.

The release date, Sept. 9, is the second anniversary of Hillary Clinton’s statement, seized on by the Trump campaign, that "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

  • Bannon — President Trump’s former campaign chief executive, and White House chief strategist — said the premiere will be the culmination of an all-day "Deplorables Conference" in New York featuring pro-Trump speeches.

A read between the frames:

  • Everything is a war to Steve. Bannon’s caricatured framing of the election — as one pitting hooded Antifa members and Dems screaming about impeachment and burning MAGA hats, against the hero Donald Trump — will almost certainly appeal to Donald Trump.
  • But I’ll be shocked if the president can get past his animus towards Bannon and endorse or promote his latest effort. 
  • Whenever I mention Bannon’s name to a White House official or Republican leadership sources, they still roll their eyes.
  • And when it comes to midterm politics, they like to mention, derisively, his scorched earth campaign on behalf of an accused pedophile, Roy Moore. I’ll be surprised if Bannon becomes a magnet for serious donor money for the fall. But this is a country full of quixotic billionaires, so who the heck knows. 
  • Trump still hates "Sloppy Steve" and thinks he tries to steal his limelight. So Bannon was smart to recruit some of Trump’s favorite diehards.

Bannon said his new group is aimed at stoking the "populist-nationalist movement" that put Trump into office, and includes booking, messaging and rapid-response operations that regularly brief friendly cable-news pundits.

  • "The war room is up and running," Bannon bragged, saying Citizens of the American Republican will focus on the triumvirate of ideas, communication and action.
  • "When I got involved [with the Trump presidential campaign] in August 2016, Trump was down 12, 14, 16 points. Democrats thought I was a clown. They never took him seriously. We caught them napping. We can do it again."

The effort to hold the House for Republicans "is more winnable" than Trump's campaign was three months before Election Day, Bannon contends.

  • "I think we can hold this to a net loss [for Republicans] of under 15 seats." (Democrats need to flip 23 seats to take House; top Republicans fear losses of 40 or more seats.)
  • "All the whining I hear among establishment Republicans, all the whining I hear in the official corridors of the Republican Party, has got to stop."

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