President Trump's comments were brief—just four sentences quoted by New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, who asked Trump about his confidence level in Steve Bannon. But they're being read as a distancing from the chief strategist amidst a reported feud with senior adviser Jared Kushner that Trump seems to confirm in the last line. The comments:
- "I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve. I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary. Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will."
At the Washington Post, Aaron Blake notes it's possible the ever-unpredictable Trump was just letting off steam. But Blake also looks at the way the Trump administration has downplayed the impact of "aides who turn out to be liabilities," among them Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. "That sure seems to be the tree Trump was barking up here." At Axios, Mike Allen is blunt: "Trump kneecaps Bannon," reads his headline. Axios' sources describe Bannon's supporters as beside themselves over the Goodwin interview. One target of their ire: economic adviser Gary Cohn, who is said to be aligned with Kushner and believed by them to be diminishing Trump's view of Bannon. Dump Bannon, and you'd have a much more centrist and traditional White House, writes Allen—but "the base ... would go crazy if he were axed." (Read more Steve Bannon stories.)