- Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, is framing this year’s midterm elections as an up-or-down vote on Trump’s impeachment.
- Bannon says that’s even more true after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and former Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted.
- “The hard thing we have to do is convince the Trump voters that: ‘Hey, there may be a RINO in your congressional district, you may not like the guy, he may not like Trump. It doesn’t matter. That fight is past us.'”
The former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, one of the Republican Party’s loudest antiestablishment voices, wants those who voted for President Donald Trump to cast ballots this fall for so-called RINOs – or Republicans in name only – if they have to.
Trump’s presidency is depending on it, Bannon told Business Insider in an interview.
Bannon, months after being castigated by Trump following his comments to the author Michael Wolff, recently launched Citizens of the American Republic, a political action group.
Already, Bannon says the group of 25 people includes former Trump campaign officials such as Michael Caputo and will be advising multiple pro-Trump surrogates.
Bannon is also soon to release a new film, titled “Trump@War.” The film highlights what the president has delivered to his supporters and makes the case that Trump’s presidency is under threat.
That’s the central theme of Bannon’s message.
“This is President Trump’s first reelect,” Bannon said. “It isn’t 2020. It’s now.”
Bannon says that following the guilty plea from Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen and the conviction of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, it’s clearer than ever that the fall election is an up-or-down vote on whether Trump should be impeached. Trump has speculated on that possibility himself, telling Fox News he doesn’t “know you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”
Democrats, on the other hand, have been very leery of discussing impeachment. One Democratic Senate aide, requesting anonymity to speak candidly on impeachment, told Business Insider that Cohen’s plea deal and Manafort’s guilty verdict didn’t change anything immediately but did set the stage for possible actions after the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report is released.
“There’s nothing the White House and Republican strategists want more than for the midterms to become a referendum on impeachment,” the person said.
‘The first thing they’re going to do is move toward impeaching him’
Bannon says Democrats are making a clear calculation in not discussing impeachment ahead of the midterms.
“They don’t want to talk about it because they know it fires up our base,” he said, adding, “they know it, and we know” that Democrats will move to impeach Trump if they regain power.
“The first thing they’re going to do is move toward impeaching him,” he said. “To start full investigations. To have subpoena power. And they’re going to do it because they have an energized base.”
Polling suggests the opinion on impeachment is fairly split. Forty-two percent of voters polled in a Politico/Morning Consult survey last week believed Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, while another 42% said it should not.
- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Bannon’s attempt at a comeback is not something for which Republican leaders were necessarily pining.
Establishment Republicans scorned him for wading into the US Senate primary in Alabama last year ahead of the special election that the Democratic candidate Doug Jones eventually won. He chose to back Roy Moore, the right-wing Republican candidate who was later accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s. Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange in the primary but lost to Jones in a major upset.
Bannon said he hadn’t spoken with the president about the midterm plans but had discussed his strategy with people close to Trump.
“The hard thing we have to do is convince the Trump voters that: ‘Hey, there may be a RINO in your congressional district, you may not like the guy, he may not like Trump. It doesn’t matter. That fight is past us,'” Bannon said.
He added: “I’m the most antiestablishment guy out there. And I have said there is a time you have to have those fights, and then there is a time you have to support the guy whether you totally agree with him or not. That guy is going to vote against Nancy Pelosi. That’s all that matters right now.”
Bannon said Trump voters may have to “ring doorbells” and “go get out the vote” for them as well.
“If you have a problem because of a RINO, you’re going to have to get over that,” he said. “Because what happens if he loses is so catastrophic.”
Bannon pointed to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s reelection race as an example. After a recent visit to Texas, Bannon estimated that “10 to 20% of Trump supporters are still upset” about Cruz refusing to announce his support for Trump at the 2016 convention. Bannon wants those voters to “get over it” because Cruz’s race against Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke is “so tight.”
“That was then, this is now,” Bannon said. “Trump needs that Senate seat, he needs that vote. And most importantly, we need Cruz to run strong because there are three or four House seats in Texas that will be impacted by that race.”
Bannon said the Trump base must acknowledge that the left is fired up and going to turn out this fall.
“People can’t sit here and think that they’re not motivated because they are and they’re energized,” he said. “And so that’s what we have to go up against. And for people to think that left is not energized to impeach Trump are kidding themselves. They are not out there to work with Trump post-November 6.”