Bannon and Priebus: Whole Lotta Shaking Going On?

Are they in?  Are they out?  The intrigue at the White House has all the makings of an Aaron Sorkin script–minus the reliably-liberal-yet-unthreatening president furrowing his brow thoughtfully as he struggles with making a monumental decision.

From Axios:

President Trump is considering a broad shakeup of his White House that could include the replacement of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the departure of chief strategist Steve Bannon, aides and advisers tell us.


A top aide to Trump said he’s contemplating major changes, but that the situation is very fluid and the timing uncertain: “Things are happening, but it’s very unclear the president’s willing to pull that trigger.”

This comes on the heels of Bannon having his role on the National Security Council being pared back, and the widely-reported rumors that he gave serious consideration to quitting the White House entirely.  It’s also no secret that things have been tense between Bannon and Priebus, who are reputed to have a chilly relationship in public and downright despise each other in private.  Bannon is also said to have butted heads with Jared Kushner, who is not only Donald Trump’s son-in-law but is also possibly Trump’s most trusted adviser next to his daughter Ivanka–who happens to be Kushner’s wife.  It’s only a matter of time before Netflix turns this all into a pretty wicked telenovela.

As always, we need to be careful because the story is based on unnamed sources–but given what we do know, it seems to make sense.  Bannon is a creature of the alt-right, while Kushner–who is officially unaffiliated with any political party–comes from a family of deep-pocketed Democrat donors, and himself has close ties to Democrat politicians.  Priebus, meanwhile, virtually embodies the very Republican establishment that Trump ran against during his unorthodox primary campaign, elements of which are still actively trying to undermine his presidency (yes, Evan McMullin and Bill Kristol, I’m talking about you).  At the beginning of his presidency, I thought that it might be a positive thing that Trump had such a diversity of viewpoints informing him, and that between all of them they could forge a consensus on policy that might serve to unify a politically splintered country.  Given how things have turned out, however, this now seems like it was too much to hope for.

If things really are this dysfunctional, then changes need to be made–and quickly.  Democrat resistance to Trump’s agenda is very well organized and even better funded, and this kind of infighting can only serve to help the opposition.  Nobody knows how much time Republicans will have the legislative majority they’ll need to make real conservative reforms, so time is of the essence.  Whatever happens, though, I’m certain that the president already knows where his loyalties lie.  Bannon, for his part, seems to have forgotten a very important piece of advice from The Godfather–you never take sides against the family.  If if comes down to a choice between him and Kushner, it’s a no-brainer who’s gonna go.

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Marc Giller

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