- REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon touted his plans for the Trump administration on Wednesday, amid calls for his ouster, after the fallout from last weekend’s deadly Charlottesville rally. The call between Bannon and American Prospect writer Robert Kuttner covered a range of topics, including North Korea, Bannon’s feuds within the Trump administration, and the fallout from a deadly Charlottesville protest. Bannon has faced renewed calls for his firing this week.
Steve Bannon shared some candid thoughts on a wide range of subjects in an interview with the progressive-leaning magazine, The American Prospect, published on Wednesday.
The interviews reveal Bannon’s thoughts on President Donald Trump’s US-China trade policy, his own views about the president’s rancorous feud last week with the leader of North Korea, the deadly Charlottesville rally, white nationalist groups, and his ongoing feuds inside the Trump administration.
The White House chief strategist also pitched what American Prospect writer Robert Kuttner described as a plan to “marginalize” his adversaries in the Trump administration.
Bannon talked of Trump’s plans to sign a measure that would open an investigation into intellectual property violations against American companies by Chinese firms. The law under which that measure was drafted, Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974, would allow Trump to place a tariff on another country without Congressional approval.
The plans to reshape US-China trade policies do not end there, Bannon indicated. He talked of shifting people within the Trump administration to achieve expansive goals on that front.
“I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in,” Bannon said. “I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”
Bannon continued: “That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said. “We’re still fighting.”
Kuttner openly questioned why Bannon, a former executive of the far-right news outlet Breitbart, called him – a reporter for a progressive-leaning publication – to sound off about some of his biggest plans for the White House’s economic agenda.
“Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right. Hence the phone call to me.”
Bannon said later that he was unaware the conversation was on-the-record.
- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Working amid calls for his firing
Bannon’s comments came after days of scorching fallout from Trump’s response to a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president has been dragged by Republican and Democratic leaders, and abandoned by CEOs of some of the biggest American corporations after Trump wavered in his denunciations of some hate groups involved in the violence.
“Ethno-nationalism-it’s losers. It’s a fringe element,” Bannon said, apparently referring to demonstrators without describing any specific ethnicity, adding that “the media plays it up too much.”
“These guys are a collection of clowns,” Bannon said.
Some critics have pointed to Bannon, who they accused of influencing Trump’s reactions to the violence in Virginia. Although Bannon spoke with Trump several times last weekend, according to the news website Axios, he “has not meaningfully advised” Trump on his response to Charlottesville, the publication said.
Bannon’s immediate future in the White House has also been called into question in the aftermath of Charlottesville, with several lawmakers urging Trump to fire him. Trump said during a fiery news conference on Tuesday: “We’ll see about Mr. Bannon.”