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Trump’s plan for Afghanistan could mean higher troop levels

John Kelly, second from left, before he became

John Kelly, second from left, before he became White House chief of staff, with then-Chief Strategist Steve Bannon in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 31, 2017. With Bannon gone, Kelly has been busy reordering some of the top positions in the administration. Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

His latest big TV moment

President Donald Trump is scheduled Monday evening to announce his decision on how to proceed in Afghanistan after a 16-year U.S. engagement. Defense Secretary James Mattis said the White House has completed its review of the strategy and Trump wanted to be the one to present it.

The move is “likely to open the door to the deployment of several thousand troops,” the New York Times reports. The speech gives him a chance to move away from a vexing week of controversy.

Past statements on the topic from Trump may be considered inoperative. In 2013 he tweeted: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”

Bye-bye, Bannon

Chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon was out Friday night as new Chief of Staff John Kelly continued to remake the top echelons of the office.

Newsday’s Tom Brune reports Bannon’s departure came as bipartisan criticism continues over President Donald Trump’s blaming “both sides” for the violence in Virginia last Saturday. A number of Democrats and Republicans had called for ousting Bannon from the White House following the clash between protesters and counterprotesters and presidential statement.

With the nationalist “wing” of the White House losing its leader, the New York Times asks if we’re going to see a more moderate Trump administration on issues from foreign policy, trade and immigration.

The takeaway: Loyalty questioned

The explosive departures of presidential aides Bannon and Anthony Scaramucci showcased an eye-popping lack of loyalty and self-discipline in Trump’s White House. Can he and Chief of Staff John Kelly set a tone that reverses those handicaps? Newsday’s Dan Janison frames the issue here.

Final days

The New York Times has an inside look at the final days of Bannon’s tenure.

The Times reports that Kelly and Trump had decided that Bannon needed to go. But instead of a quiet exit – pegged for Aug. 14 – that date was pushed back so it wouldn’t appear to be in response to Charlottesville criticism.

What followed was Bannon urging Trump to dig his heels in on his statements about Charlottesville, a chorus of criticism, and a blunt interview with American Prospect.

‘Jacked up’ at Breitbart

Bannon immediately returned to right-wing Breitbart News in time for the Friday editorial meeting.

“I feel jacked up,” he told the Weekly Standard. “And know I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up.”

He warned that moderates will try to influence the president.

Bannon had led Breitbart News since 2012 until he was brought into the Trump general election campaign — and the White House — by Robert Mercer, the billionaire co-president of the Renaissance Technologies hedge fund in East Setauket.

Ivanka knows who fired Bannon

To note, the most popular story Sunday afternoon on Breitbart: A rewrite of a Daily Mail report which says presidential daughter Ivanka Trump forced Bannon from the White House. The article claims Ivanka pushed out Bannon because his “far-right views” clashed with her Jewish faith.

Trump presidency “over”?

Bannon said he’s at war on behalf of the president.

“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon told the conservative Weekly Standard. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency.”

The New York Times said he later clarified “that he did not mean the Trump agenda was over; instead, he said he was referring to his direct work with Mr. Trump, from the end of the campaign to the first stages of his presidency.”

A Twitter Tx

Trump tweeted his thanks for Bannon Saturday.

“Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews ... maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!” Trump tweeted.

He added: “I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton — it was great! Thanks S”

Charity, CEO, celebrity backlash

Even without Bannon, unhappiness over Trump’s post-Charlottesville remarks keep coming.

Newsday’s Brune reports Sunday that the list of folks unhappy with Trump’s response to Charlottesville is growing.

He dissolved advisory panels on manufacturing, infrastructure and the arts after several members quit. The American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Salvation Army and five other major charities last week also canceled future fundraising events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump said they wouldn’t attend December’s Kennedy Center Honors “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” according to his spokeswoman. Two of five celebrities being honored had said they’d boycott over Trump’s Charlottesville comments.

On Sunday talk shows, the Senate’s only black Republican, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, called on Trump to recalibrate his response to race and reject the support of white supremacists, writes Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

What else is happening:

  • This is who Trump is talking about when he discusses violence on both sides: Antifa and the rise of the violent left, reports the Atlantic.
  • Liberal activists warn Democrats on tax reform.
  • Trump disbands climate advisory committee, reports The Washington Post.
  • Labor groups try to pressure Trump to keep promises.
  • Just wondering: CNN’s Brian Stelter asks if it’s time for journalists to start asking if Trump is fit for office.

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