White House Chief Strategist and key Trump adviser Steve Bannon just pulled a Scaramucci, it seems. Minus the vulgarities, Bannon gave a surprise phone interview, contradicting Trump and branding the radical right as "irrelevant" and "a collection of clowns." Bannon reportedly told associates that his off-the-cuff, unsolicited phone conversation with journalist Robert Kuttner, editor of left-leaning publication The American Prospect, was not intended to be an interview for a story. Kuttner, however, said it was unbelievable that Bannon wouldn't know he was on the record.
Bannon, who had been following Kuttner's writing for years, phoned the editor on Tuesday to discuss an article on China. The conversation then moved to two opinions that put Bannon at odds with both his boss and probably the neo-Nazis who have shown support for him.
He first contradicted Trump's bravado against North Korea, saying there was no military solution to North Korea's nuclear threats:
Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us.
When pressed on the racist violence that erupted in the Charlottesville white supremacy rally, Bannon called the radical right "losers," a "fringe element" and a "collection of clowns" that the media plays up too much. Bannon, the former head of far right news website Breitbart, has been called a media mastermind in promoting right-wing extremism.
Bannon started off his phone call with Kuttner to agree with his stance in a recent article: that China profits from the U.S.-North Korean nuclear standoff, and that the United States is at risk of losing the economic war with the East Asian nation. Experts say China is unlikely to use its leverage to restrain North Korea and bail out Trump because leaders such as China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin operate on a zero-sum game — they're not interested in striking a win-win deal. Bannon supports harsh trade sanctions against China and described a battle within the Trump administration to get tough on China.
After dismissing ethno-nationalism as irrelevant, Bannon went on to say that discussing it was helping the Republicans defeat the Democrats.
The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.
Bannon's future in the White House seems precarious as he is reportedly at odds with other top Trump aides. Trump, who has already fired a slew of staff, could potentially put Bannon on the chopping block for a removal or demotion. But again, no one outside of the White House knows for sure.