Steve Bannon’s caustic comments that President Trump, his son and his campaign advisers engaged in a meeting with Russian government agents that was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” has not only torched the president and his family, but disrupted the White House campaign to get rid of special prosecutor Robert Mueller. That may be why President Trump erupted so angrily.
While Trump, Capitol Hill Republicans, Fox News, and Breitbart News have sought for months to impugn the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation, Bannon just confirmed it, dashing all hopes of changing the subject from Trump’s embrace of Russia to Mueller’s integrity.
With his careless candor, Bannon refocused public attention on the Trump campaign’s deeply suspicious June 2016 meeting with Russian government officials offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor—with no lawyers,” Bannon said. “They didn’t have any lawyers.”
Mueller has made the Trump Tower meeting a target of his investigation for the same reasons. Acting as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the U.S. government is a violation of the law. Attempting to make a secret deal with foreign agents to malign a political rival smacks of disloyalty to the country.
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit—and I happen to think it’s all of that—you should have called the FBI immediately," Bannon continued.
Thus the president’s chief propagandist endorsed liberal columnist Paul Krugman’s observation that the Trump Tower meeting was the "moral equivalent of treason."
Bannon demolished Trump's claim that the charges of collusion with Russia are a “hoax" and “fake news.” To the contrary, Bannon said, Trump’s actions were legally reckless, if not potentially criminal. What Trump calls a hoax, Bannon describes as “bad shit.”
Amidst Trump’s unprecedented campaign of vilification of the FBI, Bannon states the obvious: Mueller has every reason to investigate the Trump Tower meeting.
Bannon also identified the weak link in Trump's defense: his hapless son Don Jr., whom Bannon predicted will "crack like an egg" when Mueller's team grills him. He also speculated that Don Jr. told his father about the meeting when it happened, something the White House has denied.
“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the 26th floor is zero,” Bannon said. (“Jumos” appears to be a derogatory reference to the visiting Russians.)
No wonder Trump responded by saying Bannon has “lost his mind” and is “only in it for himself," or that Trump apologists like former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer are now dutifully trashing Bannon, saying Trump’s criticism is “like a two-by-four to the head.”
In an “emperor has no clothes” moment, the Trumpian cult of personality requires that followers not only affirm the naked leader is clad in the finest garb but insist anyone who says anything to the contrary should be physically punished.
But Fleischer's slavish support from below cannot hide the rot from above. Trump has now turned on two of the men who helped him win the White House—Bannon and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn—and they are returning the favor.
Bannon, whom Trump called a "tough and smart new voice" four months ago, is now a man who wants to “burn down the country.” Flynn, a "terrific guy” in 2016, is now a "liar," because he is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
Under pressure from law enforcement, the Trump administration is cracking up.