By Cathleen Decker / Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, left the White House last month vowing to support the man he helped into the Oval Office and to savage those he saw as blocking Trump’s way.
It is a long, long list.
In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Bannon exacted revenge on a host of people, both Trump supporters and advisers and outsiders who never warmed to the president during last year’s campaign.
Of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans: “They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented … It’s as obvious as night follows day.”
Of George W. Bush’s national security team, including former secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell: “I hold these people in contempt, total and complete contempt … They’re idiots and they’ve gotten us in this situation, and they question a good man like Donald Trump.” (Bannon mocked them as the “geniuses” who embroiled the nation in war with Iraq and empowered China economically.)
Bannon saved his most scathing criticisms for those who he said had not been loyal to Trump despite ostensibly being part of his brain trust, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the president’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn.
Christie was blocked from a Cabinet position, Bannon said, because of his reluctance to publicly support Trump in October, when the campaign was upended by the release of an “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump made vulgar remarks about women to host Billy Bush.
“He wasn’t there for you on Billy Bush weekend so therefore he doesn’t get a Cabinet position?” interviewer Charlie Rose asked.
“I told him, ‘The plane leaves at 11 in the morning. If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team.’ Didn’t make the plane,” Bannon replied.
He said Cohn should have resigned rather than be publicly critical of the president’s recent response to white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Va.
Cohn, who is Jewish, was standing within feet of Trump when the president said there were “some very fine people” among those marchers.
“You can tell him, ‘Hey, maybe you can do it a better way.’ But if you’re going to break, then resign,” Bannon said.
Bannon brushed aside mention of Trump’s failures. But he predicted trouble ahead over Trump’s decision to rescind in six months the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected from deportation young immigrants brought to the country by their parents. Trump cut off the program last week, with a six-month delay to allow the Republican-led House to craft a fix.
“I’m worried about losing the House now because of this,” Bannon said, predicting a party feud like the one that erupted the last time immigration reform was on the table. “If this goes all the way down to its logical conclusion, in February and March, it will be a civil war inside the Republican party.”
Bannon said he wanted Trump to “go full bore” and rescind the program unilaterally.
“As the work permits run out, they self-deport,” Bannon said of those currently protected by the program. “There’s no path to citizenship, no path to a green card and no amnesty. Amnesty is non-negotiable.”
Bannon, a Catholic, was disdainful of Catholic bishops who have defended immigrants: “They need illegal aliens to fill the churches.”
Since his departure from the White House, Bannon has returned to the helm of the far-right Breitbart media organization he ran before joining Trump’s campaign. He told Rose that he would be Trump’s “wingman outside for the entire time.”
And help destroy Trump’s enemies, Rose asked.
“To make sure his enemies know that there’s no free shot on goal,” Bannon replied.