Bannon: McConnell, Ryan 'Trying to Nullify the 2016 Election'
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told CBS this week that Washington’s “Republican establishment,” including the top GOP leaders in both houses of Congress, “is trying to nullify the 2016 election.”
That more traditional Republicans are looking to undermine President Donald Trump, Bannon said, is as “obvious as night follows day.”
“The Republican establishment is trying to nullify the 2016 election. That's a brutal fact we have to face,” Bannon said in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that will air on Sunday. Bannon’s interviewer, CBS anchor Charlie Rose, responded by asking the former White House adviser to name names.
“I think Mitch McConnell, and to a degree, Paul Ryan. They do not want Donald Trump's populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented,” Bannon replied. “It's obvious as night follows day is what they're trying to do.”
Pressed further by Rose, Bannon recalled an early meeting between McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Trump inside the president’s Manhattan skyscraper. McConnell, Bannon recalled, told Trump that “I don't want to hear anymore of this 'drain the swamp' talk,” a reference to the president’s anti-corruption catchphrase on the campaign trail. “McConnell was, Day One, did not want to go there. Wanted us to back off,” Bannon said.
At another point in his “60 Minutes” interview, Bannon explained that Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, on which he can be heard describing to co-host Billy Bush in vulgar terms how his celebrity allowed him to sexually assault women without consequence, proved to be a “litmus test” for those around the president.
Bannon recalled the early October Saturday during last year’s presidential campaign after The Washington Post first published the tape, prompting the Trump campaign to hold a meeting on what to do. The former White House strategist said Reince Priebus, Trump’s former chief of staff who was then the chairman of the Republican National Committee, told the president “you have two choices. You either drop out right now, or you lose by the biggest landslide in American political history."
And while that negative forecast did not wind up costing Priebus a job in the White House, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was not so lucky. Bannon recalled that the governor, a top surrogate for Trump during last year’s campaign, offered a similarly dim outlook that ultimately cost him a Cabinet position.
“You know, I'm Irish. I gotta get my black book and I got 'em,” Bannon said. “Christie, because of Billy Bush weekend was not looked at for a Cabinet position.”
“He wasn't there for you on Billy Bush weekend so therefore he doesn't get a Cabinet position?” Rose asked.
“I told him, ‘The plane leaves at 11 o'clock in the morning. If you're on the plane, you're on the team.’ Didn't make the plane,” Bannon said.
By contrast, Bannon said he had told Trump at the post-Access Hollywood tape meeting that he had a “100 percent probability of winning.” It was a forecast so rosy that even Trump would not believe it, Bannon said.
“Appealing to the American people and to the working-class people in this country, absolutely. You know why? 'Cause – it was a winner. That's why I told him 'double down' every time,” the former chief strategist said. “And on that day, that's the first time and only time he ever got upset with me. He goes, ‘Come on, it's not 100 percent.’ I go, ‘It's absolutely 100 percent.’ And I told him why: They don’t care.”