President Donald Trump has dismissed widespread reports that his administration is riven by discord, saying he is sticking by his polarising chief strategist, Steve Bannon, calling him a “very decent guy” who is getting a “bad rap.”
Trump even revealed his own term for Bannon’s ideology: “alt-left,” a play on Bannon’s ties to the nationalist conservative movement sometimes called the alt-right.
Why alt-left? “Bannon’s more of a libertarian than anything else, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said Monday during an interview with Bloomberg News in the Oval Office.
Trump’s playful approach to the former chief of Breitbart News — perhaps the biggest target of liberal fury — and his other comments about his staff suggest that a widespread shakeup of his inner circle is unlikely in the near future.
He said Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus both would likely still be in their same roles several months from now, along with two other figures in his administration who have drawn withering fire: counsellor Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Sean Spicer.
Trump also said that Bannon and Trump’s senior adviser, son-in-law Jared Kushner, have managed to repair their relationship.
“Bannon is a very decent guy who feels very strongly about the country. Likewise, Jared. And they’re getting along fine,” Trump said, calling Kushner “a very brilliant young guy.”
But the president did acknowledge past tensions on the staff.
“We have a lot of people that are getting along well,” Trump said. “It’s coming out better now than it was, you know, for a while. And for a while it was a little testy, I guess for some of them, but I said, ‘You’ve got to get your acts together.”
Since late March, Trump has been said to be considering a shuffle of his top advisers. The whisper campaign in Washington — sometimes targeting Priebus and other times Bannon — resulted from squabbling within the inner circle and a string of setbacks for Trump’s nascent presidency.
Back in February, when reports of discord between Priebus and Bannon were crowding the headlines, the pair presented a united front in a series of news interviews and at a speaking appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But the speculation about Priebus’s future reached a high point after House Republicans failed to advance legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare on 23 March, the seven-year anniversary of its passage, as Trump had originally wanted.
The heat switched to Bannon after his 4 April removal from the principals committee of the National Security Council. Soon after, reports emerged of in-fighting with Kushner. On 7 April, Priebus, at Trump’s request, oversaw a session of “marriage counseling” for Bannon and Kushner, as one aide described it. The pair agreed to resolve their differences, aides said.
Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, has looked to merge the outsider world of the Trump campaign with the party establishment he’s long led. Bannon, for his part, been among the most vocal advocates for a nationalist, anti-establishment approach to governance within the Trump White House.
The two men were in charge of running operations within a Trump White House that has experienced a string of blunders and missteps, including a travel ban barring visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries that was hastily written and quickly blocked by federal courts.
One White House official said last week that Trump’s top aides believe they have learned better the governing process and are now striving to keep various agency leaders and decision-makers in the loop so that no one feels shut out.
Donald Trump's first 100 days: in cartoons
Donald Trump's first 100 days: in cartoons
Donald Trump's first 100 days in office were marred by a string of scandals, many of which caught the eye of the Independent's cartoonists
Trump's first 100 days have seen him aggressively ramp up tensions with his nuclear rivals in North Korea
Mr Trump has warned of a "major, major conflict" with the pariah nation lead by Kim Jong Un
Mr Trump dropped the "mother of all bombs" on alleged ISIS-linked militants in Afghanistan, amid an escalation of US military intervention around the globe
Mr Trump has been accused of falling short of the standards set by his predecessors in the Oval Office, including Franklin D Roosevelt
The tycoon's ascension to the White House came at a time when the balance of power is shifting away from Western nations like those in the G7 group
Western politicians, including the British Conservative party, have been accused of falling in line behind Mr Trump's proposals
Brexit is seen to have weakened Britain, reducing still further any political will to resist American leadership
Mr Trump's leadership has been marked by sudden and unexpected shifts in global policy
Trump's controversial missile strike on Syria, which killed several citizens, was seen by some analysts as an attempt to distract from his policy elsewhere
The President has also spent a large majority of his weekends golfing, rather than attending to matters of state
Though free of gaffes, a visit from Chinese president Xi Jinping spotlighted trade tensions between the two states
One major and unexpected setback came when Mr Trump's Healthcare Bill was struck down by members of his own party
Mr Trump has been a figure of fun in the media, with his approval at record lows
A string of revelations about Mr Trump's financial indiscretions did not mar his surge to the White House
Outgoing President Barack Obama was accused of wiretapping Trump Tower by his successor in America's highest office
The alleged involvement of Russian intelligence operatives in securing Mr Trump the presidency prompted harsh criticism
The explosive resignation of Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who lied about his links to the Russian ambassador, was just one scandal to hit the President
Many scandals, such as the accusation Barack Obama was implicated in phone-hacking, first broke on Mr Trump's Twitter feed
Donald Trump's election provoked mass protests in the UK, with millions signing a petition to ban him from the country
Donald Trump cited a non-existent terror attack in Sweden during a campaign rally
Donald Trump stands accused of stoking regional tensions in Eastern Asia
North Korea has launched a number of failed nuclear tests since Mr Trump took power
Theresa May formally rejected the petition calling for Mr Trump to be banned from the UK
When Mr Trump's initial so-called Muslim ban was struck down by a federal justice, the President mocked the 69-year-old as a "ridiculous", "so-called judge"
A week after his inauguration, Theresa May met with Mr Trump at the White House
Donald Trump's first days in office were marked by a hasty attempt to follow through on many of his campaign promises, including the so-called Muslim ban
Donald Trump's decision to ban citizens of many majority-Muslim countries from the US sparked mass protests
Revelations about Donald Trump's sexual improprieties were not enough to keep him from being elected President
British PM Theresa May was criticised by many in the press for cosying up to the new President
One of Mr Trump's top aides, Kelly Anne Conway, was mocked for describing mistruths as "alternative facts"
British PM Theresa May was quick to demonstrate that her political aims did not hugely differ from Mr Trump's
Donald Trump's inauguration, on 20 January 2017, sparked protests both at home and abroad
Trump said Monday that he didn’t expect to see departures from the White House soon.
“Now, I will tell you, probably people are going to get job offers. You know, things happen,” he said. “But I’m very happy with our group. We’re doing very well.”
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