Donald Trump is still refusing to back Steve Bannon who is at the center of the rampant White House in-fighting – as he warned his beleaguered chief strategist to ‘straighten it out or I will.’
The president warned Bannon that he was not irreplaceable amid reports that the top aide will be forced out of the White House unless he adopts a more conciliatory approach and plays nice with the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The ultimatum comes after a hellish week for the top aide who has become increasingly isolated in the White House following his rise to power as a key architect of Trump‘s ‘America First’ policy, a senior official told Axios.
Trump told the New York Post that Bannon was a ‘good guy’ but warned that if he could not work it out with his fellow White House staffers that Trump would be forced to step in.
‘I told them to straighten it out or I will,’ he added.
The president added that he had been doing just fine on his own before Bannon joined the campaign.
‘I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,’ Trump said. ‘I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.’
Bannon’s power bubble burst this week when Trump booted him from the National Security Council, his feuds with Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump were made public and it emerged he was against the Syrian airstrikes.
Arguably the two most influential voices in the West Wing, Bannon and Kushner were forced to sit down on Thursday at the Mar-a-Lago estate with chief of staff Reince Priebus.
Trump, increasingly frustrated by the leaks and stories of infighting that keep flowing out of the West Wing, ordered the pair to set aside their growing feud and ‘work this out’.
There have been numerous reports of late indicating Bannon – who seemingly sees himself as the keeper of campaign promises – is in constant opposition to Kushner and Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
Sources say Bannon and Kushner have locked heads over strategies to pass health care legislation, the fallout of the immigration bans and whether the US should bomb Syria.
Bannon has also taken to deriding Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner by calling him a ‘Democrat.’
‘Here’s the reason there’s no middle ground,’ Bannon told Kushner in one clash, the New York Times reported, citing someone with knowledge of the situation. ‘You’re a Democrat.’
Kushner is allied with a group of aides who view themselves as more moderate forces, including economic adviser Gary Cohn, the former president of the Goldman Sachs investment bank.
As Kushner rises to power in the White House by taking on a wide range of portfolios including his recent envoy trip to Iraq, many believe Bannon’s position seems to be slipping.
Bannon believes Kushner and his allies are trying to move away from some of the president’s populist campaign promises.
As Trump was weighing up whether or not to go ahead with missile strikes on Syria on Thursday night, it was Kushner and his allies who won the president over, according to CNN.
Bannon, the former head of the conservative news outlet Breitbart, was against the Syria strikes. He was a driving force behind Trump’s ‘America First’ policy during the election and has been against US involvement in foreign affairs.
His week from hell was centered around Wednesday’s revelation that he had been forced to give up his spot on the National Security Council’s principals committee, which reversed Trump’s decision to give Bannon access to their high-level meetings.
The announcement came a day before Trump declared: ‘I think we’ve had one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of the presidency’.
Bannon’s loss of the powerful perch comes after he bore the brunt of the blame for the healthcare fallout, in which he delivered a failed ultimatum to House conservatives that if they didn’t vote for the health bill, Trump was prepared to walk away.
He is also linked to the drafting of Trump’s controversial immigration order, now on hold due to federal court rulings.
While Trump initially went along with the way the immigration ban was rolled out, he has since grown angry that Bannon did not craft the executive order so it could stand up in court, according to a Trump source.
While reports emerged that Bannon was ready to walk away from politics after he was dropped from the NSC, the chief strategist this week rubbished the claims as ‘100 per cent nonsense’.
Speculation has been rampant about chief of staff Reince Priebus, who has faced questions about his staying power since he started the job. That scrutiny intensified with the collapse of the House GOP health care overhaul, a major embarrassment for Trump.
Several possible Priebus replacements were aired this week, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, top lobbyist Wayne Berman of Blackstone Group, and David Urban, who oversaw Trump’s Pennsylvania effort.
But Trump’s administration has pushed back against the swirling rumors of an overhaul of his aides.
Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said the narrative of a dysfunctional administration on the verge of a makeover ‘is a completely false story driven by people who want to distract from the success taking place in this administration.
As evidence of that success, Walters noted the Senate’s confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s recent meetings with foreign leaders and the U.S. missile strikes in Syria.
‘The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the president’s aggressive agenda forward,’ she said.