The Trump White House has been a hotbed of palace intrigue since he took office on 20 January. The most interesting character in the story is Steve Bannon. The former chief of the conservative news organization Breitbart News, has been at odds with Jared Kushner. And we all know how close Jared is to the president’s heart.
The lack of personal chemistry between two of the president’s closest advisers is no surprise. One is a clean-cut, preppy and pale 36-year-old scion of a New York real estate empire. The other, at 63, has a rougher appearance and grew up in a working class, Irish Catholic family in Virginia. Each represents an ideological faction vying for Trump’s attention.
The story is that Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is trying to tug the president into a more mainstream position, while Bannon is trying to keep aflame the nationalist fervor that carried Trump to his unexpected election victory in November.
The drama has intensified after the failed effort to get healthcare legislation approved by the House of Representatives and the rocky rollout of an executive order attempting to temporarily ban the citizens of six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States. Bannon is getting some of the blame for these failings because the president expects results.
A sign of Bannon’s declining influence was his removal from the National Security Council. As Trump held a joint press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan, there was a glaring absence. Chief strategist Steve Bannon had lost his place in the sun.
At the same time Kushner paid a surprise visit to Iraq, beating Tillerson to the photo op aboard a military helicopter. When the official picture of a national security briefing on Syria was published, Kushner had a seat at the table. Bannon, on the other hand was seated behind Trump.
Former advisers to the president say that during his decades-long career as a real estate developer Trump had grown accustomed to chaos, but added that even Trump eventually grew tired of this.
That’s why chief of staff, Reince Priebus, stepped forward to tell the feuding pair to end the palace intrigue. Priebus told them that if they have any policy differences, they should air them internally. So, the two have met and agreed to “bury the hatchet and move forward.”
The White House has dismissed persistent talk that Trump might be on the verge of a staff shakeup. “The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the president’s aggressive agenda forward,” spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.
Some of former Trump advisers blamed Priebus for not gaining control over the feuding, adding that this cost him his job soon. Political fortunes can be fickle, for everyone, perhaps even for the president’s son-in-law. As Bannon discovered, eclipsing a president who voraciously consumes the press himself carries many risks.
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