Election 2020

Steve Bannon aims to make a comeback in circle of Trump influencers

Trump fired him in 2017, but Bannon praised his former boss on Fox News and Trump is rumored to have spoken positively of him

An investment banker who became chairman of Breitbart News and led Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016, Bannon has extensive links to global far-right nationalist movements

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US PRESS GROUP

As an election approaches, Steve Bannon and his allies are trying to return the former chief White House strategist to media circles known to influence the president’s thinking.

An investment banker who became chairman of Breitbart News and led Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016, Bannon has extensive links to global far-right nationalist movements.

He was fired as a top adviser to the president in the summer of 2017, in the aftermath of white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia during which a counter-protester was killed.

Since then he has worked to boost insurgent conservative candidates in Republican primaries, sometimes contrary to the Trump administration’s aims, and has tried to foster rightwing populist movements in Europe.

More recently, Bannon and Jason Miller, a former Trump communications adviser, worked on a podcast called Bannon’s War Room, a niche offering for the right wing of the party.

Both men have now returned to more mainstream Republican and conservative media circles.

Miller recently returned to the Trump campaign as a senior adviser, briefing Trump often and is reportedly in good standing with the president.

Bannon’s successes have been more modest. But he recently appeared on Fox News, discussing the forthcoming election and lavishing praise on the boss who fired him.

“When people see the difference between the order of Trump and the chaos of [presumptive Democratic candidate Joe] Biden,” he said, “I think it’s going to be a pretty clear choice and I think Biden’s going to have a very tough time making this case to people.”

Both Republicans close to Bannon and those who have talked with the president stressed that Bannon has not talked to Trump directly and is not in the mix to return to the White House or the campaign.

But allies stressed that the president has started to speak positively of Bannon and likes Bannon’s podcast: a not insignificant development, given Trump’s well-reported tendency to be influenced by conservative media.

“The president has spoken very highly about Steve to a number of people lately,” said one Republican operative who has spoken often to Trump.

The operative added that “there’s no formal or informal role” for Bannon on either the Trump campaign or in the White House but “at the same time the president has spoken very highly of him and likes the show”.

The conservative-leaning Washington Examiner cited former White House officials and Trump insiders when it reported that Bannon has been trying to get conservative commentators to start criticizing the president’s re-election campaign.

In an interview on the John Fredericks radio show, Bannon praised Trump for traveling to Arizona this week, and touring the border wall. But Bannon also said Trump should approach re-election less like a candidate and more like a sitting president.

“You act like president of the United States, you take action like the president of the United States, you govern like you are president of the United States, you are going to be re-elected,” Bannon said.

Other senior Republican officials and advisers to the president described Bannon offering his thoughts about Trump’s campaign as an attempt to reinsert himself in Trump’s orbit.

The president has expressed frustration with his current campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and the campaign has brought in officials with extensive experience. Bannon, senior officials and advisers said, sees an opportunity to get back in the mix.

Running Trump’s 2016 campaign, Bannon engineered moments such as a press conference before a debate with Hillary Clinton in which Trump presented women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. While most predicted defeat for Trump, Bannon was bullish throughout.

But he ended up leaving the White House after less than a year, after clashing with then-chief of staff John Kelly. After the publication of Michael Wolff’s tell-all book, Fire and Fury, for which Bannon was a chief source, Trump took to abusing him on Twitter as “Sloppy Steve Bannon”.

Miller has stopped co-hosting the podcast with Bannon, but the two men remain on good terms.

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