Bannon Is Back In Control

Steve Bannon has been keeping a remarkably low profile lately and has only resurfaced in the news in the last couple of days with stories about him that exemplify the hubris and lies of the Trump administration. But, make no mistake, Bannon is quietly accomplishing his goal of white nationalism here in the US again restoring his place as Trump’s trusted adviser.

The first of the two recent stories was just another example of the rampant egos in the Trump orbit. Bannon has received a painting of himself as Napoleon Bonaparte, given to him by Nigel Farage. Bannon had that painting hanging in his office at Breitbart News. It does not seem that the painting made the move to the White House but the attitude certainly did. The irony of the painting is that Napoleon was instrumental in building the French administrative state while Bannon dreams of “deconstructing’ the American one.

The second Bannon story is just another indication that none of the Trump team takes the responsibility of filling out government forms seriously. It certainly seems that the approach of virtually every senior member of Trump’s team is to outrageously lie on these forms and assume they won’t get caught. In fact, that pretty much sums up their approach to governing and that strategy seems to have been adopted by Congressional Republicans as well. In Bannon’s case, he decided not to disclose who the creditors were behind the $2 million in home loans that he has outstanding. Without that knowledge, there is no way to know whether he would be providing preferential treatment to those creditors or, more likely, whether those creditors were providing preferential treatment, such as discounted mortgage rates, to him.

Meanwhile, Bannon’s efforts at destroying the federal bureaucracy are moving full steam ahead. Earlier this week the NY Times and ProPublica provided details on the deregulation teams across multiple federal agencies. Most of these agencies have stonewalled reporters’ requests for the people on those teams but the Times/ProPublica have identified 71 people so far with at least 28 of them with significant potential conflicts of interests. The agencies are as diverse as Education, Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Energy, HUD, and most importantly, Interior, and the EPA. All these teams have been infiltrated by industry insiders, some of whom are ruling on the very issues they were lobbying against just a year ago. Read the whole story for the truly frightening and ethically-challenged details.

In addition, there are still hundreds of appointed positions in multiple agencies that Trump has not filled. Part of the reason is because the Trump transition and team is not entirely organized, part because it is hard to find anyone qualified and willing to work in the administration, and part because the administration is not really interested in filling some of these jobs.

Beyond deconstructing the administrative state, the other pillar of Bannon’s strategy is immigration. The latest Muslim travel ban is in place and under another court challenge. The makeup of the limited refugees that Trump is letting into the country is also changing, becoming more Christian and probably white, even as the absolute number of Muslim refugees in the world dwarfs those of Christians. And the mass deportation force is also moving into high gear. The focus is no longer on criminals but on any undocumented immigrant. And now, according DHS head Kelley, even DACA and TPS immigrants may not be protected, putting even documented immigrants under threat.

The influence of Bannon and his sidekick Stephen Miller were all over Trump’s speech in Warsaw with phrases like “defending civilization”. The hair-brained proposal to have Erik Prince privatize our military forces in Afghanistan, essentially setting up a replica of the British East India Company in order to exploit the citizens and natural resource wealth of that country, also reeks of Bannon’s influence.

And Bannon’s influence will only get stronger as he will soon be the last man standing among Trump’s inner circle of advisers still actually left in the White House. Flynn is long gone. And both Don Jr. and Jared Kushner will soon have to distance themselves from Trump himself and the White House because of this latest revelation about collusion by meeting with the Russians, (which I believe was orchestrated by Bannon). Without Jared, Ivanka will also probably have reduced influence. That pretty much leaves Bannon as the only one left inside the White House to get Trump’s ear, which we all know regurgitates what it hears last.

I’m not suggesting that the generals and Trump’s family will not have any more influence, just that Bannon’s influence will grow as theirs diminishes. That will probably mean even more self-destructive schemes like a tariff on steel and a return to highlighting all the jobs that Trump will save (which then move offshore six months later a la Carrier).

So far, at least, Bannon has been untouched by the Russian scandal. I don’t believe for a minute that he didn’t know about the collusion with the Russians but he left it to Jared. Bannon’s part of the scheme was to use the data collected by the Mercer-funded company Cambridge Analytica which Bannon at one time headed in order to micro-target the precincts and voters in the US for the Russian hacking and propaganda. Bannon and the Mercers successfully and illegally ran a similar effort for Brexit in the UK. In this case, however, Bannon probably let Kushner pass this information on to the Russians and kept his own hands clean.

Whatever the case, it is clear now that Bannon is back and his influence is only growing. With an increasingly isolated and angry Trump, somewhat cut off from his own family and relying on Bannon for strategic advice, it will be an even more dangerous time for our country and the world.

Originally published at on July 14, 2017.

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