President Trump's brief but chilly comments to the New York Post about Steve Bannon had the media scrambling to find sources willing to weigh in on one big question: Is Bannon in or out? The Washington Post spoke with 21 of the president's "aides, confidants, and allies" in a quest to answer that question. Here's what it and other media outlets are learning and speculating:
- First, know that Trump added more fuel to the fire later Wednesday with a second set of brief comments about Bannon, this time during a wide-ranging Wall Street Journal interview. An excerpt: "I'm my own strategist. ... I’m just saying that [Mr. Bannon] is a guy who works for me, he's a good guy. But, I make my own decision."
- Though it calls him a "marked man," the Post hesitates to establish a firm position, allowing that "for now, at least, Bannon may survive the turmoil." But it has two quotes that suggest otherwise: In one, an unnamed friend uses the metaphor of a dying relative being transitioned to hospice in describing Bannon. And there's this from Newt Gingrich: "Bannon is a brilliant pirate ... but White Houses, in the end, are like the US Navy ... very hard on pirates."
- The Post also suggests the Bannon-Jared Kushner friction may extend beyond Kushner. It calls out Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr. as being bothered by what they see as an appearance of turmoil that could prove detrimental to their legacy and quest to expand Trump-brand hotels.
- Though the New York Times reports that Bannon allies (who are major Trump donors) have been holing up in recent days and imagining a path forward for Bannon should he exit, it cites a well-placed source as saying no change is imminent.
- And Bannon does have allies: One of them, Jeff Sessions, went to bat for him Wednesday in an interview with Laura Ingraham, per the Hill: "I'm an admirer of Steve Bannon," he said.
- At FiveThirtyEight, Perry Bacon Jr. advises us to "watch not for the decline of Bannon, but for the decline of Bannonism," which Bacon names as one of the four ideological styles espoused by those near Trump. He writes that knowing who might replace Bannon would be the biggest clue, and explains the difference between Gary Cohn or Stephen Miller stepping up.
- At CNN, Gregory Krieg offers up a sort of answer to Bacon's question, writing the "emerging wisdom" is that Cohn and Kushner will be in and Miller will be out. Krieg largely waves off fears that losing Bannon would mean losing his core supporters, writing Bannon "does not represent the 'silent majority' that turned the 2016 election ... [with] its uniform disdain for the political and cultural establishment. Trump does."
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