Honey badger eats words
Life on the wrong side of Donald Trump drained the swagger from Steve Bannon.
Two days after the president’s tweet taunt that Bannon had been “dumped like a dog by almost everyone,” the feral avatar of right-wing nationalism seemed to be tucking his tail between his legs.
“My support is . . . unwavering for the president and his agenda,” said a statement from Bannon, who had been quoted as telling author Michael Wolff that Trump had “lost his stuff.”
“I regret my delay,” Bannon said, “in responding to the inaccurate reporting” of his comments about the president’s eldest son. According to Wolff, Bannon called Donald Trump Jr.’s son meeting with Russians during the campaign “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
Bannon said his remarks were really aimed at Paul Manafort, the indicted former campaign manager. “Donald Trump Jr. is both a patriot and a good man,” he wrote.
The retreat came as the White House sent surrogates to the Sunday talk shows to support Trump’s declaration that, contrary to Wolff’s portrayal, he’s “a very stable genius.” See Scott Eidler and Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Getting branded by Trump with a nickname — “Sloppy Steve” — may be the least of Bannon’s troubles. The repudiation of Bannon by the Mercer clan, his chief financial underwriters, has him free-falling toward political oblivion.
“That could be the final nail in his coffin,” Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) happily told Newsday’s Ngo.
Is it the end? Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax and a Trump confidant, wasn’t so sure. “America is replete with second acts and third acts, and I think Steve is a pretty inventive guy,” Ruddy said.
But making peace with Trump may require something of an apology tour. His statement was well short of a full mea culpa and didn’t address others he is said by Wolff to have trashed, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Janison: Mercer rule
Bannon’s excommunication by the megadonor Mercers of Long Island is consistent with their record — their right-wing causes come first, and those enlisted to carry them out are disposable, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
The relationship of Robert Mercer and daughter Rebekah Mercer with movement adherents such as Bannon and Kellyanne Conway parallels that of a patron of the arts and a big institution, or a client and contractor.
Jake and the volcano
White House aide Stephen Miller’s distinguishing moment on Sunday talk shows for 2017 came when, in defense of the travel ban, he said the president’s powers “will not be questioned.”
On the first Sunday of 2018, Miller’s talking points — Trump is a “political genius,” Bannon “grotesque” and the Wolff “Fire and Fury” book “garbage” — could not be questioned.
When CNN “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper tried to ask about the Trump Jr. Russia meeting, Miller attacked the network and the interviewer like a rabid Doberman. (Video here.)
Amid crosstalk and shouting, Tapper cut the interview short, telling Miller he was wasting the audience’s time playing to the “one viewer that you care about right now.”
Which worked. Trump tweeted: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”
Miller knows stability
Miller refused to leave after CNN went to a commercial and had to be escorted out after security was called, according to Business Insider.
Next up was a testimonial from the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, that Trump was “completely fit” to lead the country.
Disputing as “absurd” Wolff’s depiction that Trump doesn’t read or properly process information, Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday”: “This president is an avid consumer of the work product that our team at the CIA produces and we do our best to convey that to him every day.”
Pompeo also said Trump’s tweet last week about his “bigger and more powerful” nuclear button was “entirely consistent with what we’re trying to communicate” to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley agreed, saying the tweet was meant to “keep Kim on his toes.”
Where there's smoke
A fire was reported early Monday at the Trump Tower, 721 Fifth Ave., where smoke could be seen coming from an upper story. Details were awaited from FDNY as of 8:30 a.m. The president is not in town. Updates are expected later in the day.
Trump’s wall construct
Trump will ask Congress for $18 billion to pay for a wall on the Mexican border. That prompted a question at his Saturday news conference in Camp David about his campaign promise that Mexico will pay.
Here’s his answer, presented rally style:
WHO’S GOING TO PAY FOR THE WALL?
HOW ARE THEY GOING TO PAY?
“In some form.”
What else is happening
- Trump’s not going to meet his deadline to bestow his “Fake News Awards,” originally due Monday. Trump tweeted the “losers” will be announced Jan. 17, adding, “The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!”
- Amid the sensation over the Wolff book’s conclusions, doubts about details keep popping up. A mention of a Four Seasons breakfast “featuring Washington Post reporter Mark Berman” surprised Berman, who tweeted he’d never been to the hotel. He confirmed the attendee was Mark Berman, a lobbyist.
- Trump’s private schedules show he is often starting his official day in the Oval Office around 11 a.m. — much later than he used to — and holding far fewer meetings, Axios reported. That gives him more time in the residence for TV and Twitter.
- Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who benefited from a Bannon-headlined fundraiser last month, used Bannon’s semi-mea culpa to buy more time on choosing sides, calling it “a positive step forward” in an interview with Newsday’s Ngo.
- Cast out by Trump along with Bannon is his former chief strategist’s grand plan to back primary challenges against “establishment” GOP incumbents. “I don’t see that happening,” Trump said Saturday, alluding to how Republicans lost a Senate seat in Alabama because of Bannon-backed Roy Moore.
- While Anthony Scaramucci only lasted 11 days as White House communications director, he left a legacy — a full-time gig for the TV hair and makeup stylist he praised, Katie Price, Politico reports. Her previous clients include CNN and Russia Today.
- Trump tweeted about a New York Post column hailing his “enormously consensual presidency.” The word actually was “consequential.”