Posts Tagged ‘John Kelly’

Steve Bannon, Back At Breitbart: “Now I’ve got my hands back on my weapons. We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency.”

August 19, 2017

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By Harriet Alexander, David Millward Barney Henderson

defiant Steve Bannon declared the Trump presidency he had campaigned for was over as he vowed to carry on the fight after being ousted as the White House chief strategist.

Within hours of leaving his office,  Mr Bannon was back at Breitbart, the right wing website he ran, presiding over the evening news conference.

In interviews he made it clear he was not going quietly as he rounded on those he held responsible for his departure.

 Image result for Gary Cohn, shirt too tight, photos

“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” he told the Weekly Standard, a right-wing newspaper   “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency,” he continued.

“But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”

He added: “I feel jacked up. Now I’ve got my hands back on my weapons,” he added as he vowed “Bannon the barbarian” would crush the opposition.

“There’s no doubt. I built a —–ng machine at Breitbart.  And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”

His loyalty to Donald Trump remained undimmed.

“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America,”  he told Bloomberg.

Earlier Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary said Mr Bannon, 63,  had departed “by mutual agreement.”

The White House then issued a statement, saying that the decision was agreed by Mr Bannon and John Kelly, the chief of staff – a sign of Mr Kelly’s grappling to control the chaos, or perhaps simply to avoid Mr Trump having to put his name to the firing of the man who most connects him to his diehard supporters.

Joel Pollack, Breitbart’s  editor at large, tweeted a one-word response to Mr Bannon’s departure: “War”.

Mr Bannon was controversial from the start.

Combative and unapologetic, the former Goldman Sachs financier was employed by Mr Trump as his campaign manager in August 2016, and described at the time as “the most dangerous political operative in America”.

He urged Mr Trump to pursue a populist path, and pressed him to hammer Hillary Clinton as corrupt – reportedly coming up with the “lock her up” chant that reverberated around his rallies.

It was Mr Bannon, with fellow hardliner Stephen Miller, who wrote Mr Trump’s inauguration speech – a dark and foreboding depiction of the “American carnage” that Mr Trump believed he had been elected to stop.

He was often at odds with the “globalist” wing of the White House – Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law; his wife Ivanka Trump; H.R. McMaster, the head of the national security council; and Gary Cohn, director of the national economic council.

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Mr Bannon reportedly referred to them in private as “the New Yorkers” and “the Democrats”, among more printable nicknames, and tried to steer his boss away from them and towards his own nationalist sympathisers.

At first the president thought fondly of his flame-throwing ideologue, who was seen to wield immense behind-the-scenes power inside the White House.

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Gary Cohn

Saturday Night Live depicted him as the grim reaper, playing Mr Trump like a puppet – something that reportedly amused Mr Bannon, but enraged his boss.

His departure had been described as imminent before, but since Charlottesville the drum beat of demise rose to a frenzy.

Mr Trump was reported earlier this week to have not spoken face-to-face with Mr Bannon in over a week, and on Tuesday, at the now infamous press conference in which he defended white supremacists, Mr Trump could only offer a lukewarm endorsement, responding to a question about Mr Bannon’s future with: “We’ll see.”

That press conference sparked condemnation of a president never before seen in the United States – the heads of the military spoke out against their commander-in-chief, and the UN secretary-general voiced concern. Titans of industry who Mr Trump had so assiduously courted on the campaign trail deserted him in droves, leading to the folding of both his business advisory panels.

On Friday the arts council resigned en masse – the first White House agency to do so.

Political condemnation was also snowballing, leading astonished Americans to ask where this could all end.

Bob Corker, a senior Republican loyalist and chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, who was considered for secretary of state, declared that “the president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to” in dealing with crises.

And, while Mr Trump sought to shift Thursday from the white supremacists to the future of statues, he was criticised by Rupert Murdoch’s son James, in an email widely circulated.

“I can’t believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists,” he wrote.

Rumblings of discontent from Mr Trump’s staff grew so loud that the White House was forced to release a statement saying that Gary Cohn, Mr Trump’s chief economic adviser, was not quitting.

The Dow Jones suffered its worst day since May on Thursday, but rebounded slightly on the news that Mr Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, was staying put.

Mr Cohn will certainly not be crying over the departure of Mr Bannon. Mr Bannon perhaps sealed his own fate this week by telephoning a reporter with The American Prospect, a Left-wing publication, to contradict his boss – and suggest that he was deciding who was in and who was out in the state department.

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it,” said Mr Bannon, directly undermining Mr Trump’s vow to respond if attacked.

Asked about his rivals at the departments of state, defence and treasury, who wanted to keep China on side by avoiding trade wars, Mr Bannon was unrepentant.

“They’re wetting themselves,” he said. “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in.”

But Mr Bannon may not go quietly.

One of the reasons Mr Trump was said to have delayed dismissing him was fear of “weaponising” Mr Bannon, if he was unleashed from the White House.

A friend of Mr Bannon said he intended to return to Breitbart, adding: “This is now a Democrat White House”.

Bannon ‘in good spirits’

Quoting  a “friend”,  the Wall Street Journal, said Mr Bannon seemed to be in good spirits, following his departure from the White House.

“Steve has always been a gunslinger. This allows him to be a gunslinger again.”

Trump ‘ceding dangerous ground to the media and establishment’

Kristin Tate, a conservative columnist, warns that Donald Trump has ceded dangerous ground to the establishment.

“There is no compromise with the Never-Trumpers and Democrats over the role of chief strategist,” she writes in The Hill, a political website.

” Personnel is policy, and Trump is ceding his ace for a player to be named later. That’s not good enough for the people who made his movement happen.

Bernie: The problem wasn’t Bannon, it was Trump

2:21am

Steve Bannon ‘said he resigned from White House two weeks ago’

1:55am

CNN says ‘Gorka could go’

Citing unnamed “sources”, CNN is saying that Sebastian Gorka, Donald Trump’s deputy assistant, could be the next to go.

Born in the UK to Hungarian parents, British educated Mr Gorka, has also been a controversial figure in the White House.

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Seen as a hardliner, he was openly critical of Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, when he suggested the US could negotiate with North Korea over nuclear weapons.

But Mr Trump is reported to be a fan of Mr Gorka’s combative style and his forthright defence of the administration in his media appearances.

1:15am

Another White House departure

Steve Bannon is not the only senior figure leaving the White House,according to Politico.

George Sifakis, director of the Office of Public Liaison since March, is reportedly on his way out.

A close friend and ally of Reince Preibus, the former White House chief of staff,   Mr Sifakis was an aide to George W Bush.

8:51pm

Nigel Farage says Bannon will be missed

8:22pm

Bannon meets billionaire donor to plot next steps

Axios, the authoritative Washington website, reports that Mr Bannon met with billionaire Republican donor Bob Mercer to plan their next moves.

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They write:

Bob Mercer and Steve Bannon had a five hour meeting Wednesday to plot out next steps, said a source withknowledge of the meeting.

They plotted strategy going forward — both political and media strategy. The meeting was at Mercer’s estate on Long Island. Mercer had dinner the next night at Bedminster with President Trump and a small group of donors. The source said Mercer and Bannon “remain strong supporters of President Trump’s and his agenda.”

 

8:19pm

Democrat leader responds

Steve Bannon’s exit does not erase @realDonaldTrump’s long record of lifting up racist viewpoints & advancing repulsive policies. 

8:03pm

Four down…

Bannon
This January 28 photo shows Donald Trump and his advisers inside the Oval Office. Of the six in the picture, only the president and vice president remain – Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer and Steve Bannon have all left.

7:48pm

Breitbart’s editor-at-large responds to Steve Bannon’s ouster

Steve Bannon, After Ousting: ‘The Trump Presidency We Fought For, And Won, Is Over’

August 19, 2017

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President Trump Holds Joint Press Conference With Japanese PM Shinzo Abe

Mario Tama/Staff/Getty Images

Note: This article contains coarse language that may offend some readers.

Hours after his removal as Chief White House Strategist, Steve Bannon spoke with The Weekly Standard about the Trump presidency and what is next for him.

Bannon’s ousting — which he claims was voluntary — comes after a press conference Tuesday that saw President Donald Trump leaving the ex-Breitbart CEO’s future at the White House in jeopardy.

“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said.

He continued: “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”

Asked what had changed about the Trump presidency, Bannon said “the Republican establishment has no interest in Trump’s success on this. They’re not populists, they’re not nationalists, they had no interest in his program. Zero.”

He continued by saying that he felt it was “a half-hearted attempt at Obamacare reform, it was no interest really on the infrastructure, they’ll do a very standard Republican version of taxes.”

Continuing on that subject, Bannon pointed to the Trump’s proposed border wall and the lack of funding, as well as the lack of sweeping tax cuts. “Where have [congressional Republicans] rallied to Trump’s cause? They haven’t.”

Bannon then took a moment to confirm what The New York Times had already reported: That he had submitted his resignation on Aug. 7. He elaborated though, saying that “I told them that my resignation would be effective the following Monday, on the 14th.”

Given the turmoil that took place in Charlottesville days after Aug. 7, Bannon, Trump, and newly appointed Chief of Staff John Kelly decided that it was best to delay his departure.

On what lies ahead for Trump, Bannon had an ominous statement on that matter. “There’s about to be a jailbreak of these moderate guys on the Hill,” he said.

“I think he’ll sign a clean debt ceiling, I think you’ll see all this stuff. His natural tendency — and I think you saw it this week on Charlottesville — his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected,” Bannon claimed of how Trump will proceed in the near future.

On a personal note, the ex-White House staffer claimed to “feel jacked up,” admitting that “now I’m free.”

Bannon also confirmed rumors that he would return to Breitbart, though the capacity in which he will return was not confirmed as of Friday evening.

“I built a f**king machine at Breitbart,” Bannon claimed. “And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”

Aside from a brief statement from the White House earlier Friday afternoon, there has been no additional comment on Bannon’s exit from White House officials.

http://ijr.com/2017/08/951579-steve-bannon-ousting-trump-presidency-fought-won/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

Steve Bannon Leaves White House Staff

August 18, 2017

Controversial strategist pushed President Trump toward nationalist, populist agenda

Steve Bannon helping with last-minute preparations before President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House on June 1 in Washington, D.C.
Steve Bannon helping with last-minute preparations before President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House on June 1 in Washington, D.C. PHOTO: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES
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Aug. 18, 2017 12:55 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon left his position Friday, as the newly minted Chief of Staff John Kelly sought to bring order to a White House riven by infighting and power struggles, according to people familiar with the decision.

Mr. Bannon’s departure marks the fourth senior White House official to leave the president’s administration in the past five weeks, which has yet to see a major legislative victory despite serving with a Republican-controlled Congress.

The former banker and media executive is credited with shepherding Mr. Trump to victory in last year’s election. He joined the campaign in the final months when Mr. Trump was trailing in the polls by double digits. He put an end to news conferences by his candidate and pushed for more rallies and a focus on closing the border, renegotiating international trade deals, and eviscerating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with personal attacks.

Bannon’s Critics: Alt-Right Is Wrong for White House
Trump spokespeople rushed to defend the president-elect’s pick of Steve Bannon for senior White House strategist. Democrats and advocacy groups denounced Bannon as a proponent of the Alt-Right, a movement that includes white nationalists. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports.(Originally published Nov. 4, 2016)
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Among White House staff, he was the most associated with the conservative, populist nationalism bent espoused by Mr. Trump during the campaign and in the White House. His departure could give rise to more moderate voices in the administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

While the relationship between the president and Mr. Bannon ebbed and flowed, the breaking point came after liberal political magazine American Prospect published an extended interview in which he referred to white supremacist groups as “clowns,” said the president’s pro-business advisers were “wetting themselves” and—contrary to the president’s public positions—dismissed the potential for military action in North Korea.

Mr. Bannon’s allies said he didn’t intend his discussion with the American Prospect to be on the record.

Mr. Bannon’s exit comes after a week in which the president has come under fire for his response to racially charged protests in Virginia. One woman was killed during the violence when a car driven by an alleged white supremacist plowed into a crowd of counter protesters.

The president initially said both sides were to blame for the clashes. On Monday, after facing heavy pressure, Mr. Trump issued a statement singling out white supremacists for blame. But then Tuesday, he delivered one of the most combative news conferences of his presidency, again saying both sides were to blame.

Inside the White House, Mr. Bannon had argued against issuing Monday’s “white supremacists” statement, telling the president that he would be criticized in the media for changing this position, said one person familiar with the exchange.

Later in the week, Mr. Trump doubled down on another of his chief strategist’s recommendations: lamenting the removal of statues commemorating Confederate leaders by likening it to a whitewashing of American history.

In a Trump administration filled with political outsiders, Mr. Bannon is among the most colorful, and the most controversial. He texts and emails with colleagues around the clock, and is known for his unkempt appearance and for dropping obscure quotes from John Wayne movies or ancient philosophers into casual conversation.

Mrs. Clinton sought to turn Mr. Bannon into a campaign issue, arguing his arrival showed Mr. Trump was “taking hate groups mainstream.” Before joining the campaign, Mr. Bannon was head of Breitbart News, which he once described as a “platform for the alt-right.” Breitbart has published such articles as “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.”

In a phone call with Mr. Trump several weeks ago on an unrelated subject, Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) pushed back hard against the idea of getting rid of Mr. Bannon, according to a person familiar with the matter. Conservatives from the tea party movement have viewed him as a crucial link to the White House.

Mr. Meadows, who is part of the House Freedom Caucus, didn’t immediately comment on Friday. His group, consisting of several dozen Republicans, doesn’t have enough members to drive the GOP agenda, but it is big enough to deprive House Republicans of the votes they would need to advance legislation with only GOP support.

Among conservative activists and Bannon allies, there are deep concerns about the former Breitbart CEO’s ability to influence the administration from the outside in the same way he had at times from his office just steps from the Oval Office. Additionally, they worry about the president moving toward the political center without Mr. Bannon involved in policy fights, the person said.

“I see New York Democrats and generals in ascendancy, and that is not what we ran on in 2016,” the person continued. “So it worries me.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/steve-bannon-leaves-white-house-staff-1503075345

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Trump Tells Aides He Has Decided to Remove Stephen Bannon

August 18, 2017

President Trump has told senior aides that he has decided to remove Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist who helped Mr. Trump win the 2016 election, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion.

The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon. The two administration officials cautioned that Mr. Trump is known to be averse to confrontation within his inner circle, and could decide to keep on Mr. Bannon for some time.

As of Friday morning, the two men were still discussing Mr. Bannon’s future, the officials said. A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but it was delayed in the wake of the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

Mr. Bannon had clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers and members of the president’s family.

But the loss of Mr. Bannon, the right-wing nationalist who helped propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality, raises the potential for the president to face criticism from the conservative news media base that supported him over the past year.

Mr. Bannon’s many critics bore down after the violence in Charlottesville. Outraged over Mr. Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead, human rights activists demanded that the president fire so-called nationalists working in the West Wing. That group of hard-right populists in the White House is led by Mr. Bannon.

On Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, Mr. Trump refused to guarantee Mr. Bannon’s job security but defended him as “not a racist” and “a friend.”

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Steve Bannon May Be Fired At Any Moment

August 18, 2017

 

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, in April at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

By ELLIOTKAUFMAN

August 18, 2017 12:14 PM
@ESTERLINGK

Jonathan Swan of Axios, a very fine reporter, has just written that Chief of Staff John Kelly’s review of White House staff is coming to an end — and that Steve Bannon appears to be on the chopping block. “A decision is imminent,” Swan writes.

More fascinating is that the decision seems to rest in Kelly’s hands. Apparently, President Trump now suspects Bannon has been responsible for a series of damaging leaks about his colleagues in the West Wing. His recent on-the-record news dump to a left-wing reporter, in which he bad-mouthed other members of the White House staff, cannot have helped either.

Bannon may still survive, however. Swan notes that he appears unfazed and that Trump will have to consider whether Bannon can damage him from outside the administration, or cost him the support of billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, valuable Trump allies.

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“Get ready for Bannon the barbarian,” warned a source close to Bannon.

But this may not be enough to save his job: “Many West Wing officials are now asking ‘when,’ not ‘if,’ Bannon goes,” according to Swan.

Chief of Staff Kelly would have good reasons to fire Bannon. As National Review’s David French has written, “Bannon’s actions indicate that, if nothing else, he’s a vicious opportunist.”

This opportunism has led him not only to indulge some of the elements of the hateful alt-right, but also to wage a vicious media campaign against national-security adviser H. R. McMaster, with Bannon’s allies falsely accusing him of being anti-Israel and an alcoholic.

David puts it with characteristic clarity: “Vindictive men who promote the work of racists and normalize their ideas obviously shouldn’t be within 100 miles of political power, never mind two steps from the Oval Office.”

We would do well to remember that as Kelly makes his ultimate decision.

It has become even more difficult to defend Bannon now that, as Charles Krauthammer explained last night, Bannon is openly contradicting the president and attacking other White House staff to left-wing reporters. Kelly will have to keep all of this in mind as he makes his final decision.

Will Bannon be more damaging to the president from the outside than from the inside?

We may soon find out.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/450603/steve-bannon-firing-may-be-imminent

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Top US generals issue veiled criticism of Donald Trump’s Charlottesville comments

August 17, 2017

Mr Trump has faced widespread criticism after saying there were ‘two sides to every story’

By Chloe FarandAndrew Buncombe New York

The Independent

Two senior US military officers have made what has been interpreted as veiled criticism of Donald Trump in the wake of his comments about the Nazi-led violence in Charlottesville.

Mark A Milley, the US Army Chief of Staff, said in a tweet the army did not accept “racism, extremism and hatred”, though he did not specifically condemn the President, or even mention him.

In the tweet, Mr Milley said: “The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our rank. It’s against our values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.”

The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.

Another senior officer, General Robert B Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, also appeared to counter Mr Trump’s comments. “No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honour, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act,” he said on Twitter.

No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.

Mr Trump has faced widespread criticism since he veered off the teleprompter at an infrastructure press launch and began answering questions as to whether or not he had been slow to denounce white supremacist-led violence that resulted in the death of one young woman, Heather Heyer, and the injury of up to 20 others over the weekend.

Mr Trump had initially sought to say there had been wrong on “all sides”, but under intense pressure from within his own party and without, he then issued a statement in which he said racism was evil and denounced white supremacy and neo-Nazism.

But as he was questioned on Tuesday afternoon about his slow-paced response to the incident, Mr Trump became defensive and then went on the attack.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly watches on nervously at Trump’s Charlottesville press briefing

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said. “I thought what happened was a horrible moment for our country, but there are two sides to every story.”

Many public figures and officials have come out to condemn the violence at the white supremacists’ rally in the Virginia college town, including senior member of the Republican Party. There have been mounting calls for the President to fire a number of his White House staff, among them Steve Bannon, who have been accused of promoting nationalism or white nationalism. Mr Trump notedly refused to voice his support for Mr Bannon when he was asked at the same press conference.

This is not the first time that Mr Milley has appeared to stand up to some of  Mr Trump’s more controversial comments or directives. Last month, when Mr Trump tweeted that transgender people could not serve in the armed forces, Mr Milley was among those within the military hierarchy that said it would not act on the announcement until it received a formal directive from the White House.

“We grow up and learn to obey the chain of command, and my chain of command is secretary of the Army, secretary of Defence and the president,” Mr Milley said. “We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it. …To my knowledge, the Department of Defence, Secretary Mattis has not received written directives yet.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/mark-milley-us-army-chief-staff-donald-trump-charlottesville-latest-racism-extremism-hate-neo-nazi-a7896366.html

Trump Advisors Frustrated: “Now It’s Even Harder to Get Things Done”

August 17, 2017

Top advisers are said to be frustrated over the president’s comments about the violence in Virginia

President Donald Trump delivered remarks at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump delivered remarks at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday. PHOTO: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

President Donald Trump’s comments faulting both sides in Saturday’s deadly white nationalist protest in Virginia rattled his staff and risk setting back his policy agenda in Congress, lawmakers and administration aides said.

Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, was upset by the remarks and the trajectory of a news conference Tuesday that was supposed to showcase the White House’s infrastructure plans, aides said. Instead, the event was dominated by Mr. Trump’s fiery commentary about the violence in Charlottesville that left one person dead.

Still, Mr. Cohn has given no sign he is prepared to resign, aides said. He is a central player in the White House’s push to overhaul the tax code, and the president has said he is considering Mr. Cohn to be chairman of the Federal Reserve.

John Kelly, the newly minted White House chief of staff who was brought in last month to impose discipline in a fractious West Wing, was also frustrated to see Mr. Trump equate the white nationalists who had chanted “Jews won’t replace us” with the actions of counterprotesters, an administration aide said.

A White House spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request to speak to Mr. Kelly or for a comment about Mr. Kelly. An aide said Mr. Cohn was unavailable for comment.

Susan Bro, mother of Charlottesville, Va., victim Heather Heyer, gave a passionate speech at her daughter’s memorial on Wednesday, where she made a call to action, telling the audience “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Photo: Fox

The White House has dealt with high-level turnover in recent weeks. The administration has lost three senior officials, including a chief of staff and communications director.

Some of the GOP president’s allies said Mr. Trump’s foray into the combustible politics of race will make things tougher as Congress confronts a series of difficult legislative challenges, including lifting the nation’s debt ceiling, passing a budget and changing the tax code.

Mr. Trump’s relationship with important congressional allies has already soured. He recently attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) in tweets for the collapse of the GOP health-care legislation.

“Between the McConnell tweets and the mishandling of Charlottesville, he has made it harder to get things done,” said Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and a supporter of Mr. Trump.

But Mr. Gingrich added: “Congressional Republicans know they have to get some things done to get re-elected next year, even if they are unhappy or rattled by Trump.”

As the president traveled from New York to his golf club in northern New Jersey Wednesday, the fallout continued in other ways.

More corporate executive officers began parting ways with Mr. Trump, resigning positions on presidential advisory councils. One of the councils had planned to disbandafter a conference call of its executives on Wednesday morning, a person familiar with the matter said.

Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Stephen A. Schwarzman, who led the Strategic and Policy Forum, called the president on Wednesday to inform him the group was being disbanded, according to people familiar with the call.

Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday that he was shutting it down along with a manufacturing-advisory panel that had also seen high-profile CEO defections in the wake of the president’s controversial remarks.

Various U.S. military leaders at the Pentagon issued their own statements denouncing bigotry, while the Navy said it may consider changing the crest of a ship commemorating one of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s victories.

Republican lawmakers who were traveling to former President Ronald Reagan’s ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., to start a public-relations campaign to win public support for a new tax law said that their efforts would be drowned out by the latest White House drama.

In a scripted statement Monday, President Donald Trump ​condemned white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville​. B​ut in an unscripted press conference ​on ​Tuesday, he ​changed his stance, blaming both the right and the “alt-left” for the deadly clashes. Photo: Getty

“Everybody that is looking at this past several days just scratches their heads and says good grief,” said Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) “That said, you operate in the environment in which you’re operating. We could prefer this, that or the other thing, but wishing it doesn’t make it happen.”

Mr. Trump avoided any mention of Charlottesville on Wednesday, other than a tweet noting the memorial service being held for Heather Heyer, the woman who died during the weekend’s violence. He called her a “truly special young woman.”

For the president’s new chief of staff, keeping Mr. Trump focused and preventing distractions have proved to be a challenge.

A retired Marine Corps general, Mr. Kelly has sought to end the freewheeling arrangement in the West Wing where visitors popped in and out of the Oval Office.

Now, anyone wishing to speak to the president—friends, advisers and staffers alike—must make a formal, written request, said one person familiar with the process.

Mr. Kelly doesn’t have the same command over White House communications. On Wednesday, the administration installed Hope Hicks, a longtime press adviser to the president, as interim communications director while it searches for a permanent replacement.

Speaking to staff at one point earlier this month, Mr. Kelly told the White House team that the best job he ever had was as a sergeant in the Marine Corps. After one week at the White House, he joked with them, that hadn’t changed—yet.

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com, Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@wsj.com and Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 17, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Remarks Rattle His Staff, Threaten Agenda.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-remarks-rattle-his-staff-threaten-agenda-1502928599

Steve Bannon: Trump says “we’ll see what happens”

August 16, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump is saying “we’ll see what happens” with top strategist Steve Bannon.

The president refused to express confidence in Bannon during an impromptu news conference Tuesday.

Image result for Steve Bannon, photos

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attends a ceremony in the Rose Garden where Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch was administered the judicial oath at the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

“He’s a good person. He actually gets very unfair press in that regard,” Trump said. “But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.”

Bannon was a key general election campaign adviser and has been a forceful but contentious presence in a divided White House. The former leader of conservative Breitbart News has drawn fire from some of Trump’s closest advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Though Bannon has survived being on the outs at earlier points in the administration, the president is being pressed anew to fire him. The anti-Bannon campaign comes as Trump is facing heated criticism for not immediately condemning by name white supremacists and other hate groups after deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Bannon once described Breitbart as “the platform for the alt-right.”

Speaking to reporters in Trump Tower, the president said Bannon is a friend and “not a racist.”

White nationalist Richard Spencer reacted to the US president’s belated condemnation of white supremacist groups, claiming the remarks were “not terribly different” from earlier ones that drew criticism for failing to condemn hate groups. (Aug. 15)

That less-than-enthusiastic defense called into question Bannon’s own assessment of the situation: He had been telling people that he believed his job was safe, following a conversation in recent days with new chief of staff John Kelly, according to a White House official who demanded anonymity to discuss private exchanges.

The decision whether to drop Bannon is more than just a personnel matter. The media guru is viewed in some circles as Trump’s connection to his base and the protector of Trump’s disruptive, conservative agenda.

A Tuesday headline on Breitbart equated his potential ouster to the president being urged to “Give Trump Voters Middle Finger.” Ned Ryun, a conservative strategist who occasionally advises the White House, wrote on Twitter, “Cannot tell you how bad a signal it would be to @realdonaldtrump’s base if Bannon is forced out.”

But Bannon’s high profile and puppet-master image have at times irked a president who doesn’t like to share the spotlight and bristles at the suggestion that he needs a liaison to his base.

In April, Trump diminished Bannon’s role to that of “a guy who works for me.”

The president doubled down on that dismissiveness at Tuesday’s press conference, distancing Bannon from his unexpectedly successful presidential campaign.

“I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that,” he said.

Bannon’s supporters say Trump is being urged by advisers such as chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell to fire him.

Kelly has also expressed concerns to Trump about Bannon, and is said to be particularly angry with a flood of negative stories about national security adviser H.R. McMaster that some in the White House believe are being leaked by Bannon. That’s according to two people briefed on the personnel discussions taking place who are not authorized to speak publicly.

Kelly has grown weary of the conservative attacks on McMaster and believes that even if Bannon is not personally responsible for them, he has not done enough to quell them. Bannon has denied being behind the anti-McMaster campaign.

The public squabbling among White House advisers is precisely the sort of drama Kelly was brought in to stop.

The chief of staff is embarking on a weeks-long personnel review of West Wing staff and has indicated to aides that significant changes could be coming, according to an official familiar with Kelly’s plans but not authorized to speak publicly.

Although Bannon enjoys a vocal core of supporters outside the White House, most of Trump’s most trusted advisers long ago soured on him. Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s opposition to Bannon’s West Wing role is well-known, but they’re staying out of personnel decisions about him, according to a White House official.

Bannon’s backers include Rep. Mark Meadows, the head of the House’s Freedom Caucus, an array of Breitbart-like media and the Zionist Organization of America, which has spoken out in opposition to McMaster.

Bannon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

He has told associates that he has no plans to leave the White House and would only do so if Trump fires him. He has been trying to keep a low profile during Trump’s break from Washington and ride out the storm — the same strategy he employed during clashes earlier this year with Kushner.

At the start of the administration, Bannon was its driving force, a near-constant presence in the Oval Office leading the charge to roll back Obama-era regulations and push through the president’s travel ban. Blowback to the botched introduction of the ban, which was rolled out quickly with little outside consultation, angered many in the administration, including Kelly, then head of Homeland Security.

In the hours before Trump spoke to the press Tuesday, Kelly was spotted eating lunch at a nearby hotel with aides. Playing on the TV screen above him was a cable news program with its ticker displaying speculation about Bannon’s future.

Kelly did not look up.

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Bykowicz reported from Washington. Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace contributed to this report.

Trump Says ‘Both Sides’ to Blame in Charlottesville Violence

August 16, 2017

Updated Aug. 15, 2017 9:28 p.m. ET

NEW YORK—President Donald Trump, in a combative news conference on Tuesday, defended his response to the racially charged protests over the weekend, saying both sides were to blame for the clashes in Charlottesville, Va.

 

“There is blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it,” Mr. Trump said of the confrontation between white nationalist protesters holding a demonstration in the city and the counterprotesters facing off against them.

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent and nobody wants to say that but I’ll say it right now,” he said, adding that there were “very fine people, on both sides.”

 More on the Violence in Charlottesville

Mr. Trump’s remarks were at odds with his statement on Monday that singled out white supremacists for blame and was issued after the president faced heavy pressure for failing to do so two days earlier. One woman was killed during the violence when a car driven by an alleged white supremacist plowed into a crowd.

Explaining Tuesday why he waited to call out white nationalist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis by name, Mr. Trump said: “Before I make a statement, I need the facts.”

The news conference was his first at Trump Tower since taking office, and was the most confrontational appearance since his last news conference at his New York skyscraper on Jan. 11, when he got into a shouting match with a CNN reporter.

Although the focus of the event was on Mr. Trump’s efforts to ease regulations and speed up infrastructure projects, the inquiries from reporters were almost exclusively about Mr. Trump’s handling of the protests, and why it took him three days to single out neo-Nazis or white nationalists, who organized the weekend rally.

Out of nearly two dozen questions aimed at the president, just one was about infrastructure. He received no questions about North Korea’s recent decision to back off its threat to fire missiles at Guam, or his first trade action aimed at China, which was announced on Monday.

We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.

An increasingly agitated president responded by calling the counterprotesters, who included liberal activists, members of the clergy and students, the “alt-left”—a play on the term “alt-right” that is a catchall phrase for far-right groups that embrace tenets of white supremacy or reject mainstream conservatism.

He suggested there was a slippery slope from removing a statute of Civil War General Robert E. Lee, which sparked the demonstration, and scrubbing from history former Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” he said. “What about the fact that they came charging with their clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.”

The president’s comments were praised by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who, on Twitter, thanked Mr. Trump for his “honor and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists.” Mr. Duke ran for Senate as a Republican.

The tweet drew immediate rebukes from some Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, one of his party’s few black congressmen.

“I don’t think anybody should be looking at getting props from a grand dragon from the KKK as a definition of success,” Mr. Hurd said on CNN, adding that the president should “stick to the teleprompter and not go off the cuff.”

As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), who has often defended Mr. Trump this year, moved quickly to separate himself from the president’s remarks at Trump Tower.

“We must be clear,” Mr. Ryan posted on Twitter. “White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) tweeted: “As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President.”

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany tweeted that the president “once again denounced hate today. The GOP stands behind his message of love and inclusiveness!”

Following days of criticism about his handling of Charlottesville, Mr. Trump came to the news conference aggrieved about his treatment, two advisers to the president said. One said he had been “stunned” by the reaction over the past few days and was feeling “overwhelming pressure.” Mr. Trump could have parried questions by referring to his statement on Monday singling out white nationalist groups by name. Instead, he gave the most extensive public comments on the episode to date.

One adviser to the president, speaking before the news conference, said Mr. Trump was facing pressure from aides, family and friends to clarify his statement on Saturday and condemn more directly the white nationalist protesters. The danger to Mr. Trump is that divisive racial rhetoric will leave him isolated, this person said.

President @realDonaldTrump once again denounced hate today. The GOP stands behind his message of love and inclusiveness!

“Congress will run from him. Any normal person will run from him,” he said.

Mr. Trump also was asked about his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and his future in the White House.

The president has been urged to fire Mr. Bannon by other top White House officials, some Republican lawmakers, as well as Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the U.S. House. But on Tuesday, the president called Mr. Bannon a “friend” and suggested he was safe, at least for now.

Mr. Bannon, who helped steer Mr. Trump’s election victory, joined the campaign from Breitbart News, which he once described as a “platform for the alt-right.” Brietbart has published such articles as “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.”

“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he’s a good person,” Mr. Trump said. “He is not a racist, I can tell you that.”

Some conservatives, though, said Mr. Trump is ill-served by Mr. Bannon’s presence in the West Wing, and calls for his ouster have risen since the Charlottesville violence.

Karl Rove, a former senior official in President George W. Bush’s White House and an op-ed writer for The Wall Street Journal, said Mr. Bannon’s ideology is out of step with that of Republican and conservative thought. “I personally believe that Bannon’s mind-set is unhelpful to the president,” Mr. Rove said. “The idea of blowing up the Republican Party and helping the alt-right infiltrate the conservative movement is unhelpful to my party and my cause.”

Mr. Trump said some protesters Saturday weren’t white supremacists but people there to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statute.

“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis,” he said. “I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.”

Mr. Trump also was asked about the executives who had left White House advisory positions in the wake of his slow condemnation of white nationalists.

He said: “Because they’re not taking their jobs seriously as it pertains to this country.…They’re leaving out of embarrassment because they’re making their products outside” of the country.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 16, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Adds Fuel to Race Furor.’

.

Defiant Trump insists anew: Blame both sides for violence

August 16, 2017

The Associated Press

By JONATHAN LEMIRE and JULIE PACE

The Associated Press

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, calls on a reporter while meeting the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK (AP) — Combative and insistent, President Donald Trump declared anew Tuesday “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, appearing to once again equate the actions of white supremacist groups and those protesting them. He showed sympathy for the fringe groups’ efforts to preserve Confederate monuments.

The president’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House a day earlier when he branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.”

Trump’s advisers had hoped those remarks might quell a crush of criticism from Republicans, Democrats and business leaders. But the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort and renewed questions about why he seems to struggle to unequivocally condemn white nationalists.

The blowback was swift, including from fellow Republicans. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Trump should not allow white supremacists “to share only part of the blame.” House Speaker Paul Ryan declared in a tweet that “white supremacy is repulsive” and there should be “no moral ambiguity,” though he did not specifically address the president.

Combative and insistent, President Donald Trump declared Tuesday “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence last weekend in Virginia, appearing to once again equate the actions of white supremacist groups and those protesting them. (Aug. 15)

Trump’s remarks were welcomed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who tweeted, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

Violence broke out Saturday in Charlottesville, a picturesque college town, after a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists assembled to protest the city’s decision to remove a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

In the immediate aftermath, Trump placed the blame on “many sides.” On Monday, at the urging of his aides, he delivered a more direct condemnation of white supremacists. But he returned to his original arguments Tuesday during an impromptu press conference in the lobby of his Manhattan skyscraper, declaring “there are two sides to a story.”

He acknowledged there were “some very bad people” looking for trouble in the group protesting plans to remove the statue. “But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” he said.

Trump sided with those seeking to maintain the monument to Lee, equating him with some of the nation’s founders who also owned slaves. Confederate monuments have become rallying points for supporters of both preserving and toppling them.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” he said. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down.” I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself where does it stop?”

He continued: “You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”

The president’s comments mirrored rhetoric from the far-right fringe. A post Monday by the publisher of The Daily Stormer, a notorious neo-Nazi website, predicted that protesters are going to demand that the Washington Monument be torn down.

Trump’s handling of the weekend violence has raised new and troubling questions, even among some supporters. Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and business leaders have begun abandoning a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.

White House officials were caught off guard by his remarks Tuesday. He had signed off on a plan to not answer questions from journalists during an event touting infrastructure policies, according to a White House official not authorized to speak publicly about a private discussion. Once behind the lectern and facing the cameras, he overruled the decision.

As Trump talked, his aides on the sidelines in the lobby stood in silence. Chief of staff John Kelly crossed his arms and stared down at his shoes, barely glancing at the president. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders looked around the room trying to make eye contact with other senior aides. One young staffer stood with her mouth agape.

 

John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, on Tuesday during Mr. Trump’s news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

Kelly was brought into the White House less than a month ago to try to bring order and stability to a chaotic West Wing. Some Trump allies hoped the retired Marine general might be able to succeed where others have failed: controlling some of Trump’s impulses. But the president’s improvisations on Tuesday once against underscored that he cannot be controlled by his advisers.

Democrats were aghast at Trump’s comments. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said on Twitter that the Charlottesville violence “was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said on Twitter that he no longer views Trump as his president.

“As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment,” Schatz said. “This is not my president.”

When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.

Trump, who has quickly deemed other deadly incidents in the U.S. and around the world acts of terrorism, waffled when asked whether the car death was a terrorist attack.

“There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism?” Trump said. “And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”

Trump said he had yet to call Heyer’s mother but would soon “reach out.” He praised her for what he said was a nice statement about him on social media.

As he finally walked away from his lectern, he stopped to answer one more shouted question: Would he visit Charlottesville? The president’s response was to note that he owned property there and to say — inaccurately — that it was one of the largest wineries in the United States.

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AP writers Darlene Superville and Richard Lardner contributed to this report. Pace reported from Washington.

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Follow Lemire at http://twitter.com/jonlemire and Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC