A little less than a week ago, I wrote
On Tuesday, those reports were confirmed by the highest-level source possible — President Donald Trump himself.
In an interview, the New York Post's Michael Goodwin asked Trump if he still had confidence in Bannon, and, Goodwin writes, "I did not get a definitive yes."
Far from it. Instead, in just four remarkable and revealing sentences, Trump managed to 1) minimize Bannon's role in his campaign and eventual victory, 2) seemingly betray some sensitivity about the "President Bannon" narrative, 3) confirm the reports of administration infighting, and 4) issue a public ultimatum.
1) Downplaying Bannon's role: "I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late," Trump told Goodwin. "I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve." (The statement about when Bannon joined the campaign is factually accurate; the statement that Trump "didn't know" him beforehand is not.)
2) Betraying some sensitivity about the "President Bannon" narrative: "I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary," Trump continued. (This language is very similar to a tweet Trump sent in February, at the height of the media's portrayal of Bannon as the person really calling the shots in the administration. "I call my own shots," the president tweeted one morning. "Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!")
3) Confirming the reports of administration infighting: A set of dishy recent reports have described a burgeoning feud between Bannon and White House senior adviser (and presidential son-in-law) Jared Kushner, leading to an instruction from Trump that they had to work things out. Earlier on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer called these reports "overblown" — which, while perhaps less than honest, is the normal thing for an administration to do in situations like this. Unfortunately, the president himself contradicted Spicer's denial and revealed the tensions were serious enough that he had to step in. "Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will," Trump told Goodwin.
4) Issuing Bannon a public ultimatum: Managers generally deal with tense staffing problems in private — and again, in politics, it's common to publicly proclaim full confidence in a beleaguered adviser right up until the moment he or she is fired — but here Trump is telling the whole world that Bannon is on thin ice. Appropriately, Bannon's allies are responding by panicking — Axios's Mike Allen calls them "distraught."
So things look grim for Bannon. Even if he hangs on, his authority has been dramatically undercut — a White House staffer is only powerful if others in the administration and outside it