For someone who was front and center in the political mix for a full year (and had a pretty big hand in the direction of American conservatism before that), Steve Bannon has been relatively quiet since leaving the White House last fall. He emerged briefly after being quoted extensively in Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” book to proclaim himself still fully behind President Donald Trump and his agenda, and he played a role in assisting Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, but after being fired from Breitbart, he’s been mostly silent.
Bannon broke his silence in a big way this week, though, as he sat down for an interview with the Washington Post about his plan to see Donald Trump through one of the greatest legal crises to ever threaten a sitting president.
According to the Post, Bannon has been talking to people inside the White House about a strategy that could protect Trump from Robert Mueller’s expanding investigation. The strategy: Fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, cease all cooperation with the special counsel’s office, assert executive privilege and nullify all of Mueller’s interviews with White House insiders, and force the investigation back to Congress where it belongs.
“The president wasn’t fully briefed by his lawyers,” Bannon told the Post about Trump’s decision not to invoke executive privilege. “It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively.”
It seems obvious that Trump, while perhaps not on the best of terms with the man he now refers to as “Sloppy Steve,” is now poised to treat the Mueller probe much differently than he has thus far. Even before the raid on Michael Cohen on Monday morning, Trump was taking a much more adversarial approach to Mueller, calling him out on Twitter and blasting the special counsel’s office for being stocked with partisan Democrats.
In recent days his fury has grown, and he has renewed his criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose recusal from the matter has infuriated the president since it first happened. If ever there was a point where Trump could be pushed to take sharper measures against the “witch hunt,” now would be that time.
“I have the utmost respect for Bob Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but the developments over the past two weeks make it the right time to shift the center of gravity of this back to Capitol Hill,” Bannon said. “Make the Republican Party own this, force them to have his back.”
Will they, though? The way some Republicans have been talking in recent days, we wonder. Perhaps this would be an excellent time to test their loyalties. Are they going to defend the president and by extension his voters (and by further extension, truth and justice)? Or are they going run in the opposite direction for fear they might get criticized by the Washington media?
We know this much: If Trump stands by and allows this investigation to go on as it has, Mueller is eventually going to find something extremely damaging to this presidency. Whether it’s some legal infraction from twenty years ago or some political weapon against Trump’s coalition of supporters, Mueller isn’t walking away from this until he digs up some dirt. There’s no further reason for Trump to provide him with the shovel.