Steve Bannon has given a baffling interview in which he dismissed the white supremacist movement as a “collection of clowns” after his boss, Donald Trump, repeatedly inflamed tensions by failing to condemn them over Charlottesville.
The White House chief strategist on Wednesday gave a long-ranging interview in which he called those involved in the Virginia protest that led to the death of Heather Heyer “losers” and a “fringe element”.
Bannon’s remarks, to The American Prospect, came after Trump claimed on Tuesday that the unrest came from “both sides” in an apparent doubling down of the initial remarks he made on Saturday that ignited a controversy that has raged ever since.
Bannon reportedly called up the leftwing political magazine’s co-founder, Robert Kuttner, and made the unsolicited remarks. Kuttner wrote that he never requested the interview and was “stunned” to hear from Bannon. It has since been reported that Bannon was unaware he was providing an interview.
The former Breitbart editor also spoke about the threat posed by North Korea following Trump’s tit for tat with Kim Jung Un over Guam last week, saying that there is no military solution to the conflict.
The American Prospect article reads:
But Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize his rivals at the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury.
“They’re wetting themselves,” he said, proceeding to detail how he would oust some of his opponents at State and Defense.
Needless to say, I was a little stunned to get an email from Bannon’s assistant midday Tuesday, just as all hell was breaking loose once again about Charlottesville, saying that Bannon wished to meet with me.
I’d just published a column on how China was profiting from the U.S.-North Korea nuclear brinkmanship, and it included some choice words about Bannon’s boss.
“There’s no military solution (to North Korea’s nuclear threats), forget it,” Bannon told The American Prospect.
“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
Trump tweeted earlier Wednesday that Kim “made a very wise and well-reasoned decision” by backing down after heightening fears of nuclear conflict in a series of combative threats, including against the US territory.
Bannon’s comments come amid increasing calls from both sides of the political spectrum for him to lose his job, and when asked about his strategist’s future at a press conference this week, Trump simply said: “We’ll see what happens”.
While not declaring his support for Bannon, Trump did add that he was a “good person”, however, he also declared that there was some “very fine people” on both sides at the Charlottesville protests.
The White House has not responded to Bannon’s latest comments, the Associated Press reported, but it has left many commentators aghast.
Steve Bannon's colleagues can't believe what they're reading tonight — and here's the twist: neither can Bannon. https://t.co/SRyxJDv5Bc— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) August 17, 2017
IF you're trying to get to the eyepopping Bannon interview with the American Prospect, here's the cached page: https://t.co/vJilHibrsK— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) August 17, 2017
So Steve Bannon called up a reporter he's never met to bitch about other West Wingers, and he's surprised the reporter did his job? Please.— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) August 17, 2017
During the interview, Bannon also outlined his push for the US to adopt a tougher stance on China trade, without waiting to see whether Beijing will help restrain Kim, as Trump has pressed China’s leader to do. Trump also has lamented US trade deficits with China.
“The economic war with China is everything,” Bannon said. “And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”
In the interview, Bannon muses about getting rid of administration officials who disagree with his strategy toward China and North Korea and replacing them with “hawks”.
“We gotta do this. The president’s default position is to do it, but the apparatus is going crazy,” Bannon says. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s like, every day.”
Bannon was a key general election campaign adviser and has been a forceful but contentious presence in a divided White House where he has also riled some of Trump’s closest advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.