White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was very happy with President Donald Trump’s freewheeling press conference on Tuesday, during which he equated neo-Nazis and white supremacists with the “alt-left,” Politico reported on Wednesday.
Trump said on Tuesday that there were “two sides to the story.”
“As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day … You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” Trump said. “Nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it.”
Bannon, well-known for his far-right and nationalist views, thoroughly approved of Trump’s remarks, a “friend of Bannon” told Politico. The news comes as the White House strategist has once again found himself in the limelight in recent days, amid reports that White House chief of staff John Kelly is scrutinizing Bannon’s role in the West Wing.
Bannon has also been accused of mobilizing an effort to smear national security adviser H.R. McMaster, whose views often run counter to Bannon’s and those of the administration’s nationalist wing.
Several Trump aides told Politico that with Kelly’s arrival, they expect Bannon to be pushed out soon, though he’s been in the hot seat multiple times throughout Trump’s presidency and has come out unscathed.
Trump offered a lukewarm defense of Bannon during Tuesday’s press conference, saying he was “a good man” and “not a racist, I can tell you that.”
Bannon appears to be one of the few White House insiders who was pleased with Trump’s remarks. Following the press conference, Trump advisers told reporters that they had not planned for him to make those statements.
The press conference was the third time Trump addressed the Charlottesville riots. In his initial statement on Saturday, Trump pinned the blame “on many sides” while not specifically condemning white nationalists. After widespread criticism, Trump on Monday made another statement, denouncing neo-Nazis and KKK members as “repugnant” and specifically calling out the “hatred and bigotry” at the rally.
One Trump adviser told Politico that the president felt his press conference on Tuesday had been much better than the statement he released the previous day, in which he specifically singled out far-right hate groups for the violence.