President Donald Trump’s two closest aides are fighting “nonstop” and often “face-to-face,” officials say — and it’s even uglier in private.
President Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon has called the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner a “cuck” and a “globalist” during a time of high tension between the two top aides, several Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast.
The fighting between Kushner and Bannon has been “nonstop” in recent weeks, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It’s been an “open secret” that Bannon and Kushner often clash “face-to-face,” according to senior officials.
One official said Bannon has lately complained about Kushner trying to “shiv him and push him out the door” and likened him to a fifth column in the White House.
“[Steve] recently vented to us about Jared being a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’…He actually said ‘cuck,’ as in “cuckservative,’” the administration official told The Daily Beast.
“Cuckservative,” a portmanteau of “cuckold” and “conservative,” has become a favorite slur on the right, used like a sexually and racially charged version of “RINO,” a Republican In Name Only.
“Globalist” is a term typically used by nationalist, pro-Trump right-wingers against political opponents; however, the term has also come under fire for at times carrying anti-Semitic tones. (Kushner is Jewish.)
Bannon is a self-described “nationalist” and long-time Republican, while Kushner was, until his father-in-law ran for president, a lifelong liberal and a Democratic donor.
“There’s a big fight [going on],” one senior official said.
“It’s all about policy. There’s tension [between them] on trade, health care, immigration, taxes, [terrorism]—you name it.”
The White House and Bannon did not respond to emails seeking comment.
One senior Trump aide said that Bannon was also frustrated with Kushner “continuing to bring in Zeke Emanuel to discuss health care options,” for instance. The aide said Emanuel has had three White House meetings, including one with Trump.
In 2009, conservatives called Emanuel “Dr. Death” for advocating for end-of-life consultations during the crafting of the Affordable Care Act. (He is also the brother of Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.)
"Steve thinks Jared is worse than a Democrat, basically," another official close to Bannon said.
"[Steve] has a very specific vision for what he believes, and what he shares [ideologically] with Trump. And he has for a long time now seen [Jared] as a major obstacle to achieving that."
Bannon was removed from his post on the National Security Council on Wednesday.
One senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast on Wednesday morning that Bannon was "only on [NSC] to babysit [Michael] Flynn" because Trump "was losing faith" in Flynn, and that Bannon "never went to meetings."
The official also said that the removal had been planned for a while and that it was "in the works from the day" Bannon met National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
Another senior aide told the Beast that "that's [all] spin and CYA, but fine," but mentioned that Bannon still has security clearance.
Furthermore, two big efforts spearheaded by Bannon in the Trump administration recently failed. Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive orders, crafted in large part by Bannon, are at best indefinitely tied up in court, and his pugilistic push on Trumpcare — which included Bannon urging Trump to “keep a shit list” of Republicans who opposed him — didn’t get the job done.
However, it’s clear that Kushner has been expanding his reach and level of influence in Trump’s core circle of advisers, and that the two men are essentially working against one another as they attempt to keep the president’s ear and affections.
“I love a gunfight,” Bannon told his associates and allies since Wednesday, according to Axios.
The Times also reported that “Bannon’s Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing’s only leading man,” and that “several associates said the president had quietly expressed annoyance over the credit Mr. Bannon had received for setting the agenda—and Mr. Trump was not pleased by the ‘President Bannon’ puppet-master theme promoted by magazines, late-night talk shows and Twitter.”
A Republican source close to Trump told The Daily Beast confirmed this level of insecurity over Bannon’s reputation coming from the president, and mentioned that the president was “irked” after catching a glimpse of a recent cold-open on Saturday Night Live.
Bannon was depicted as a Grim Reaper character who manipulates Alec Baldwin’s President Trump into sowing global chaos and diplomatic breakdown.
At the end of the scene, “Bannon” tells Trump to give him his Oval Office desk back.
Baldwin’s Trump calls the Reaper “Mr. President,” and then proceeds to go sit at his own much smaller, shorter desk, where the president plays with a kid’s toy instead of governing.
"Did you see this crap?" Trump asked the confidante, referring to the SNL sketch.
For the time being, both Bannon and Kushner, and their respective allies in the White House, are digging in for a cold, if not increasingly hotter, war.
For instance, Bannon’s far-right media allies are ready to wage a sustained war on their new enemy, Kushner.
“Jared Kushner, perhaps the one presidential aide who cannot be fired, is now in regular text message communications with Joe Scarborough,” Roger Stone, a former longtime political adviser to Trump, claimed on Alex Jones’s show.
“Many of the anti-Steve Bannon stories that you see, the themes that you see on [MSNBC’s] Morning Joe, are being dictated by Kushner. And while Mr. Kushner’s plate is very full with Middle Eastern peace and the China visit, and so on, in this case I think he is disserving the president.”
“Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, Dina Powell: the three big-government liberals tightening their hold on the White House,” influential right-wing radio host Mark Levin warned on Twitter on Wednesday night.