Breitbart’s influence grows inside White House

Breitbart’s influence grows inside White House
© Getty Images

President Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, is dipping into Breitbart News to staff the White House.

The hires give Bannon more loyalists in Trump’s West Wing, and also raise Breitbart’s profile and power.

It comes as the conservative news organization, led by Bannon until last year, seeks to expand its influence in Washington and the world.

ADVERTISEMENT
One of Breitbart’s biggest stars, Julia Hahn, is expected to join the White House as an aide to Bannon. Breitbart’s national security editor, Sebastian Gorka, will also relocate to the White House, likely with a spot on the president’s National Security Council, Business Insider reported on Tuesday.

The Breitbartization of the White House comes as no surprise to people at the conservative news site.

“I’m surprised it took this long,” one Breitbart reporter told The Hill. “There are a number of people on staff who clearly have resumes that would lend themselves to the administration. These two are ideologically in line with Bannon. They’re people he can trust. It makes sense.”



Hahn, 25, is said to be a favorite of both Bannon and Trump’s senior adviser for policy, Stephen Miller, a veteran of the campaign and attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSenate Dem: We’re trying to block a recess appointment to replace Sessions Sessions planning to announce leak investigations: report Trump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal MORE’s (R-Ala.) office.

She worked for Laura Ingraham at a time when the radio host led the charge to oust former House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorSpecial interests hide behind vets on Independence Day What to watch for in Comey’s testimony Trump nominates two new DOD officials MORE (R-Va.). Soon after, Hahn joined the office of Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), whose surprise victory over Cantor shook Washington and put GOP leaders on notice. 



At Breitbart, Hahn has had Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanOPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 The one part of ObamaCare that must be repealed now Senate Dems warn they will block recess appointments MORE (R-Wis.) in her crosshairs, writing mocking stories about him being a closeted supporter of Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal Mellman: Trump love? Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate Judiciary reportedly drops Manafort subpoena | Kushner meets with House Intel | House passes Russia sanctions deal | What to watch at 'hacker summer camp' MORE and pumping up his long-shot primary challenger. 



Like Miller, 31, Hahn’s allies describe her as a policy wunderkind who positioned herself at the vanguard of the national populist movement even before Trump came along.

Her focus has been on immigration, trade and economic populism, three issues at the center of Trump’s agenda.

Gorka’s primary focus at Breitbart has been the threat of radical Islam. He has been a fierce critic of what he describes as the Obama administration’s weak response to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other international terror groups. 


Hahn and Gorka would give Bannon two allies who buy wholesale into the issues that were central to Trump’s rise. 



“Julia has been a champion for Trump’s anti-establishment base and understands the issues that helped get Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDem rep: Trump can't deliver on promise because of Russia probe Trump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal Trump: 'I won't say' that I should be on Mount Rushmore MORE elected as well as anyone,” Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow told The Hill.

“Dr. Gorka has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Islamic State and caught on to it as a threat early on. They are huge hires for the White House on issues that are essential to Trump’s coalition and the polices he hopes to affect as president.”

They will join Bannon’s team at a time when there is intense media focus on the possible rival power centers in Trump’s White House between conservative and more establishment forces within the GOP.

Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, a former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, are seen as rival influences, though White House officials say there is no tension.

Priebus has had early success in bringing in key allies including press secretary Sean Spicer and Katie Walsh, the former finance director and chief of staff at the RNC who will act as deputy chief of staff at the White House.

Now, Hahn and Gorka will add to Bannon’s stable of trusted allies in the West Wing, although one source familiar with Bannon’s thinking dismissed the notion that he is staffing up for a fight.

“Steve is bringing in people he trusts on the issues that were central to Donald Trump’s success,” the source said. “Of course it’s good for him to have committed allies, but that’s not the motivation. The motivation is he’s trying to make sure there are talented people around him at the White House that know what they’re doing.”



The hires are also significant for Breitbart. 



The website will soon be opening bureaus in France, Italy and Germany, where the  outlet believes Brexit-style insurgencies could be on the cusp of developing.

Breitbart has begun a hiring spree meant to capitalize on the forces that turned it into a juggernaut on the right. That means picking off reporters from more mainstream news outlets like John Carney, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who will edit the website’s business page. 



“There will always be this ‘Fight Club’ element where we look to punch the establishment when they deserve it,” Marlow said. “But we have a lot of reporting to do and will recruit and hire the most well-rounded and sophisticated and sharpest minds in Washington to build the best team, period. We’re not going to follow any prescription that the media wants.”

Still, the movement from Breitbart to the White House has given ammunition to the media outlet’s critics, who say it is nothing more than a propaganda arm of Trump’s White House.

“There is no line of separation between the White House and Breitbart — they are one in the same,” Kurt Bardella, a former Breitbart spokesman who has since disavowed the media outlet, told The Hill. “They effectively are a state-sponsored/controlled platform designed to advance the administration’s propaganda.”



Breitbart disputes that reading and has prided itself on holding Trump accountable for his campaign promises. 

In the weeks since Trump has been elected, Breitbart has run stories whacking Trump for declining to hire a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton and for continuing former President Obama’s policy of issuing work permits to young people in the country illegally. 



“The one perception we’re always battling is that we’re joined at the hip with Trump, and that’s just not the case,” a Breitbart editor told The Hill.

“We’ve had no problem writing it up when he’s been wrong and we’ll continue to do that. It’s what journalists are supposed to do. But we’ll do it without the contempt and hatred that others in the media have for him.”