Trump Tower Meetings Comments Throw a Wrench in Breitbart-Trump Administration Relationship
It’s the non-scandal scandal that just won’t die. According to a new book penned by liberal journalist Michael Wolff, the Trump administration has some explaining to do about the Russian Trump Tower meetings held with senior campaign staff. In particular, Breitbart Executive Chair Steve Bannon’s comments surrounding Donald Trump Jr. have the potential to sully relations between the White House and the popular conservative publication.
As The Guardian reports today, Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” He further warned that “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
At the time of Trump Jr.’s meeting, Bannon was chief executive of the Trump campaign and later went on to serve as White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to Breitbart News. (Source: “Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says in explosive book,” The Guardian, January 3, 2018.)
Furthermore, Bannon appears to chastise both Trump Jr. and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a rather condescending tone. Regarding the Trump Tower meetings, Bannon remarked sardonically, “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers… Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.” (Source: Ibid.)
Setting aside tone for a moment, Bannon’s comments provide powerful ammunition to leftist critics. It’s pretty hard to defend an action when your own campaign manager agrees that wrongdoing took place. At the very least, Bannon’s statements will put the Trump administration on the defensive and force them to explain how the Trump Tower meetings were all just one big misunderstanding.
There’s also little doubt that the revelations in this book will be parroted between partisan lines. The left will take this as absolute proof that impeachable collusion took place, while the right will continue yawning. Both positions have defensible arguments. But to us, the main story is really about how Steve Bannon’s comments threaten the trust between Breitbart and the Trump administration more than anything else.
Why? Because Bannon openly contradicts Trump’s assertions that the meetings were innocuous while simultaneously implicating Trump’s own son of wrongdoing. That lack of solidarity is not something you expect from players on the same side.
Breitbart And Trump Joined at the Hip
Both sides need each other. There’s little debate that the pent-up demand for Trumpian politics was fostered and amplified by Breitbart. However, Donald Trump was the perfect messenger the movement needed to galvanize Steve Bannon’s populist agenda.
Without each other, the course of American political history would be much different right now. Breitbart would remain a shell of itself while Trump would be looking to close his newest golf course investment. Most frighteningly for conservatives, Hillary Clinton would be calling the shots.
Thus, both sides have ample reason not to let Steve Bannon’s Trump Tower comments spin out of control.
From Trump’s perspective, Breitbart provides a critical venue of support in which MAGA fanatics can obtain their daily dose of truth serum. Being by far the biggest pro-Trump news organization in America, Breitbart is instrumental in countering the almost universally anti-Trump mainstream media narrative. Its readership includes millions of unique conservative supporters and rivals The Washington Post in both size and scale.
How critical is Breitbart toward counter-balancing the mainstream narrative? Consider that a May 2017 Harvard scholars study analyzed the who’s-who of mainstream news outlet coverage during Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Their findings? Around 80% of the coverage was negative among those outlets studied, versus 20% positive. Some outlets like CNN produced coverage that was 93% critical of Trump. On aggregate, Trump’s ratings were more than 20% lower than both George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s first year in office. (Source: “Harvard study: CNN, NBC Trump coverage 93 percent negative,” Washington Examiner, May 19, 2017.)
From Bannon’s perspective, Donald Trump is good for business. To put this in context, Breitbart had 2.2-billion page views by November 20, 2017, making it America’s fourth-biggest news site behind CNN.com, NYTimes.com, and WashingtonPost.com. (Source: “Boom: Breitbart.com Breaks Web Traffic Record Set in 2016 — by Mid-November!,” Breitbart, November 26, 2017.)
But even more than that, Trump is an irreplaceable bullhorn in Bannon’s pro-America agenda. By many accounts, Steve Bannon isn’t in the publishing game for the money; he already has plenty of that. He’s doing it for ideological reasons and is driven by an overarching purpose to steer America back to its conservative roots.
Donald Trump is the Jacksonian anti-establishment voice Breitbart needs to keep expounding its message. There are literally no substitutes for the daily molotov cocktails Trump throws progressive’s way; be it through the media, the politically correct brigade, the United Nations, and so on.
In short, the Trump-Bannon relationship is a necessary one, and for the reasons everybody thinks.
Regardless of the potential chasm Bannon’s comments open up, both parties need each other. There can be no winners in a conflict in which past bygones poison the bigger ideological struggle. That’s exactly the trap Trump’s opponents want him to fall into, as conflict can do nothing but weaken the “MAGA” agenda. I think both parties will recognize this fact and let bygones be bygones. Whatever differences both parties had in the past are no longer relevant.
If Trump loses, so does Bannon (and vice versa). That’s something neither party can afford at this point in time.