Bannon says right must support ‘RINOs’

Bannon says right must support ‘RINOs’
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump knocks BuzzFeed over Cohen report, points to Russia dossier DNC says it was targeted by Russian hackers after fall midterms BuzzFeed stands by Cohen report: Mueller should 'make clear what he's disputing' MORE’s controversial former chief strategist Stephen Bannon is making an uneasy peace with the Republican establishment as he returns to the battlefield for the midterm elections.

Bannon, who made his name as a populist firebrand eager to attack GOP leaders in Washington, is now urging Trump loyalists to hold their noses — even if the party’s candidate in their district is someone they might deride as a Republican In Name Only, or RINO.

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Citing one example, Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTop 10 events of 2018 that shaped marijuana policy Washington braces for lengthy shutdown Lawmakers shrug off shutdown drama MORE (R-Texas), Bannon told The Hill, “One of the things we have to convince people of is, it doesn’t matter that Pete Sessions is a RINO. He’s a vote for Donald Trump and that’s all you have to think about. And not just, you have to vote for him — you’re going to have to go out and work a precinct, and ring doorbells, and do a phone bank for him.”

Sessions' campaign said he "has enthusiastically supported common-sense Republican reforms" as a member of Congress.

"These reforms reflect Pete’s principled conservative values and they reflect the values of the people he is honored to represent," a spokesman told The Hill.

Bannon was speaking with The Hill to coincide with the release of his new film “Trump @ War,” a 70-minute, unabashedly pro-Trump documentary that is intended to fire up the president’s base in advance of the midterm elections.

Bannon claimed the movie cost between $1.5 million and $2 million to make — funds he said came primarily from “a couple of big donors” as well as out of his own pocket. 

The movie got its first national airing on the conservative One America News Network on Wednesday night. Bannon says he is planning to screen it at rallies in crucial districts, “in union halls and church basements,” in the run up to Election Day on Nov. 6.

Yet if Bannon is willing to make nice toward the establishment he once targeted, he is candid that he is doing so only to maximize the chances of the president’s party holding onto its House majority.     

“Look, I detest the Republican establishment and they detest me. I got it. I’m fine with that,” he told The Hill. “That’s a fight for a different day.”

Bannon was a pivotal figure in the final stretch of Trump’s 2016 campaign but he departed the White House after just seven months, soon after John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE replaced Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusTrump Org hires former WH ethics lawyer to deal with congressional probes Trump's national security team is constant source of turnover The Democratic and Anti-democratic parties MORE as chief of staff. 

He was sent into deeper exile by Trump after the publication of Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury,” at the start of this year. Various unflattering quotes, including some about Trump family members, were ascribed to Bannon. Trump mocked his former lieutenant as “Sloppy Steve” and said he had “lost his mind.”

But the strategist has remained a news-making, polarizing figure. 

Critics accuse him of stoking outright racism — a charge that Bannon fiercely denies. 

Earlier this month, The New Yorker magazine scheduled a public interview between its editor, David Remnick, and Bannon as part of its annual festival. After an outcry from celebrities and some staff members, the invite was rescinded. Bannon called the decision “gutless.”

During Bannon’s tenure in the White House, internal enemies blamed him for fomenting division. 

But he sees a measure of vindication in Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear”, which includes scenes in which figures including Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisMacron: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS Poll: Most Americans want US troops in Syria Fox's Griffin: Was told by diplomat that Syria attack was 'direct result' of US pullout decision MORE and former economic adviser Gary CohnGary David CohnOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Gary Cohn criticizes the shutdown: 'Completely wrong' Ocasio-Cortez rips presence of lobbyists at orientation event MORE work to thwart Trump’s wishes.  

Bannon argues that Woodward’s reporting supports his view that a cabal within the administration has been undermining the president.

“You basically have…a coup,” Bannon said, referring sarcastically to “the Committee to Save America, which was that group of [Rex] Tillerson and [James] Mattis and [John] Kelly and [Gary] Cohn.” 

Bannon no longer speaks directly with Trump, even though he remains connected to others in the president’s circle. 

Detractors will see the movie as part of an effort to put himself back into Trump’s good graces. 

The same goes for the outside group he is now spearheading, Citizens of the American Republic. Bannon claims the group has a 25-person “war room” and is already ramping up its efforts, animated by his belief that Trump faces near-certain impeachment if Democrats take the House.

“The White House, to be honest, on the political side I think is a little slow off the mark. I don’t see the sense of urgency at the campaign, I don’t see the sense of urgency at the White House, and I think there is a huge sense of urgency,” he said.

Having once predicted that the GOP could lose more than 50 seats in the House, Bannon has recently been expressing greater confidence. 

But he also says there are crucial differences that make success in the midterms a steeper climb than was the case even in Trump’s White House bid.

Referring to Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump knocks BuzzFeed over Cohen report, points to Russia dossier DNC says it was targeted by Russian hackers after fall midterms Special counsel issues rare statement disputing explosive Cohen report MORE’s 2016 campaign, Bannon said, “One of the biggest advantages we had [was that] they didn’t take us seriously. They thought Trump was a clown. One of the biggest things we had was the ability to sneak up on them.

“That’s not happening now,” he added. “This thing won’t be stolen from anybody, You won’t steal a march. You’ll have to grind it out.”

-Updated 8:25 p.m.