President Donald Trump refused to distance himself from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon after the populist firebrand laid out his plan to dismantle the Republican establishment starting at the 2018 congressional midterm elections.
When asked about Bannon’s bold challenge against the GOP establishment – the informal coalition of longtime Republican lawmakers exemplified by Senate Majority Mitch McConnell that has often found itself at odds with the Trump agenda – the president remained diplomatic.
“Steve is very committed,” Trump said. “He’s a friend of mine, and he is very committed to getting things passed.”
In recent weeks, Bannon has embarked on a mission to lure powerful GOP fundraisers away from the likes of McConnell and toward a new wave of Trump-aligned politicians, many of whom will reportedly mount primary challenges against Republicans deemed too cozy with the status quo.
“There’s a time and season for everything, and now it’s a season for war against the GOP establishment,” Bannon told a D.C. crowd during Saturday’s Values Voter Summit. “It’s no longer acceptable to come and pat you on the head and tell you, ‘everything’s going to be fine, just get these guys an office.’”
Trump appeared to signal support for Bannon’s grassroots strategy when it comes to transforming the Republican legislature, pointing to his own struggles to repeal and replace Obamacare when going up against unpredictable forces like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
“I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from, and I can understand where a lot of people are coming from because I’m not happy about it, and a lot of people are unhappy about it,” he said.
According to Bannon, those Republicans who refuse to get onboard with Trump’s America First platform will suffer at the polls.
“No one can run and hide on this one; these folks are coming for you,” he said. “The day of taking a few conservatives’ cotes and hiding is over. These folks aren’t rubes. These folks aren’t idiots.”