The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 8/18/17 Bannon Out
Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: August 18, 2017
Guest: Kristen Welker, Nicholas Confessore, Olivia Nuzzi, Shelby Holliday,
David Corn, Brittney Cooper, Julius Krien, Leah Wright Rigueur, Liz Plank,
Wil Hylton, Kurt Bardella
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Chuck, infrastructure is our top story tonight. I
don`t know how you knew.
TODD: There you go. Do what I can to tee you up, brother.
MELBER: I hope you have a great weekend, Chuck Todd.
TODD: You got it.
MELBER: The news tonight, he`s out. The most controversial staffer in a
controversial White House, Steve Bannon ousted today. And right now, new
details coming into our newsroom about all of it.
The White House using another Friday afternoon to deal with its bad news.
Now, Bannon`s first statement as an ex-White House staffer came in just
within the last half an hour after the work day ended.
He`s telling “Bloomberg News” tonight talk of political war today is
actually good for Trump and that`s because he wants to go to war with
The departure coming as Bannon was facing intense blowback for cheerleading
Trump`s defense of those attendees at the violent white nationalist rally
in Charlottesville. Now, Bannon could return to Breitbart, which he touted
as the platform for the alt-right.
The White House`s official story about all this, a mutual decision, that
John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve`s
last day. That`s the official statement, noting we`re grateful for his
service and wish him the best.
But that cover story already contested by people close to Bannon, claiming
that he offered to resign August 7 and also contested by leaks that, no,
no, it was Trump who decided to remove him regardless.
Either way Democrats tonight saying, it`s not enough. “It doesn`t disguise
where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists” says Nancy
Pelosi. And the Democratic congressional candidate ribbing Trump for
Bannon`s purported power by tweeting tonight, “Trump fired the president?”
From Republicans, a mixed reaction. Some saying, here`s a clean slate.
Others have a different view. Republican Congressman Steve King saying
this is a hard blow landed against conservatives.
Today also marks, if you`re counting, just two weeks since Donald Trump
tapped John Kelly as chief of staff and this new departure just the latest
in a long line of top staff biting the dust.
Among them, in February, Michael Flynn departing as national security
advisor. In July, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and, of course, that
followed by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus a week later. And now, the
biggest and clearly most controversial name of all, the one who supposedly
had the flame - the white nationalist flame as some called it in the White
House, Steve Bannon also out.
We have a lot to cover here. NBC`s Kristen Welker is just outside of
Trump`s New Jersey golf club. I`m also going to joined tonight by Nicholas
Confessore, political investigative reporter at “The New York Times”,
Olivia Nuzzi Washington correspondent for New York Magazine, Shelby
Holliday from “The Wall Street Journal”, and David Corn Washington bureau
chief for Mother Jones.
It is a Brady Bunch level night of coverage and we`ll give you all the
boxes we can. But we start, though, with my colleague Kristen. What`s the
latest there and what`s the mood?
KRISTEN WELKER, “NBC NEWS” WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the mood is
that this is a reset within the administration, perhaps the biggest one
since the president first took office.
And in terms of the timeline, you mapped it out, Ari. The fact that White
House officials as well as those close to Steve Bannon say that he did
offer his resignation on August 7, but he did so under pressure.
The writing was on the wall. John Kelly had started this review of all of
the president`s top officials to determine who should stay, who should go
and the sense was that, ultimately, this was John Kelly`s decision that he
felt as though Steve Bannon was someone who was standing in the way of
getting the president`s agenda passed.
MELBER: Does that mean Kristen that - does that mean it`s not the
WELKER: Well, I think it came at the recommendation of General John Kelly,
but ultimately it was the president`s decision. President Trump gave the
And I refer you back to his comments earlier this week when he was asked
about the future of Steve Bannon. President Trump referred to him as Mr.
Bannon very informally. He said we`ll have to see about his future.
So, that was the real first indication that he could be in serious trouble.
But just to remind people, Ari, this is someone who has been a lightning
rod from the very beginning. He`s been at the war with some of President
Trump`s other top advisers like Jared Kushner, his son-in-law; H.R.
McMaster, his national security advisor.
President Trump tolerated it to some extent, but there was a sense that
increasingly it was becoming very toxic to this administration. He offered
his resignation two weeks ago, but I think that this is something that a
lot of quarters within the Republican Party were pushing for after what we
heard from the president in Charlottesville.
MELBER: Kristen Welker with the president. And if you get more news
throughout the hour, I know we`ll come back to you. Appreciate it.
David Corn, let me play for you that Bannon quote that Kristen just cited
that recent damning by faint praise perhaps. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s a good person and I
think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No more or less unfairly than his boss - his now ex-boss -
President Trump there. David, what does it mean in your view as a
chronicler of all this to see Steve Bannon, the former campaign chair, who
came in at the end when it counted, the man who says he holds the key to
the nationalism and the populism at the heartbeat of the Trump movement
such as it is. What does it mean that he`s gone tonight?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”: Well, Steve Bannon
was the heart of darkness of the White House, and that`s not to take
anything away from Donald Trump because as we`ve seen in the last week -
MELBER: OK. Well -
DAVID CORN: By saying that there were very fine people walking and working
MELBER: David, you`re saying you don`t want to take away Trump`s claim to
CORN: Either. No, I don`t want to do that either. But this is a fellow
who told us at “Mother Jones” last summer that he saw Breitbart, which he
was the publisher or the head of, as a platform for the alt-right.
And if you read Breitbart in those days, they said themselves the alt-right
was composed, in part, by white nationalists.
So, here you have a guy saying that he wanted to provide a platform to
white nationalists. Somehow, he ends up in the White House serving the
president of the United States. Shouldn`t have happened in the first
I don`t think his departure means a lot in terms of policy because I think
he`s lost a lot of policy battles to the globalists and the people who are
a little more reasonable than he is.
But what it does mean is, children at home pay attention, that if you are a
disruptor who plays footsie with racists and then try to stab in the back a
general who is chief of staff, well, maybe your White House tenure won`t
work out so well. That`s a good lesson to people in this country to learn.
MELBER: Well, lesson for the children. And, David Corn, your advice to
children, obviously, very on point that eight-year-olds around the country
who I`m sure watch THE BEAT are thinking about how to tango with four-star
Olivia, you look at this, look at the racial component here which has been
the theme of the week, Bannon, about Democrats and race saying give me
more, tear down more statues, say the revolution is coming, I can`t get
enough of it.
As a chronicler of all of this, how much of this is about this week in your
view and how much of it is about everything else?
OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”: I think it`s
about everything else. I think we just reached the tipping point this
But, remember, when Donald Trump said what he said on Tuesday about Steve
Bannon, he said he`s a nice guy, he is alright, we`ll see where heads.
But, basically, he didn`t say specifically whether or not he was going to
stay or whether he was going to leave.
When he said that, he already knew that Bannon was at the end of the road
based on all the conversations I`ve had today with people in and
surrounding the White House.
And I think it really just - it came down to the fact that Donald Trump is
unhappy. He doesn`t like that he`s being criticized so toughly. He
doesn`t like that his numbers are as bad as they are, but also he has John
And this is - I think what we`re seeing in the last couple of weeks with
all of the people moving in and out is basically we have a chief of staff
for the first time in the White House.
MELBER: Right. A chief of staff who can make personal decisions.
NUZZI: Yes. Priebus was not given the flexibility to really make
personnel decisions early on. John Kelly has been given that.
MELBER: Well, and you mentioned Donald Trump`s standing. He may besmirch
polls in the press, but never enough to stop following them. His own ally,
Shelby, Newt Gingrich here, weighing in on this and saying, “it`s
qualitatively different, it`s bad and Trump is isolated”. Take a listen.
Newt Gingrich, let me read it to you. Sometimes it`s more fun (INAUDIBLE).
“He`s in a position right now where he is much more isolated than he
realizes,” Newt Gingrich says today. “He needs to think - well, let`s play
it. Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He`s in a position right now
where he is much more isolated than he realizes. He needs to think about
what has not worked. And you don`t get down in the 35 percent range of
approval and have people in your own party shooting at you and then
conclude that everything is going fine.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Right. People in
your own party, people in your own family, people in the business community
which was supposed to be this really close ally of President Trump.
So, this move came - I think it`s a relief to a lot of people, but it came
after a tremendous amount of pressure on the president. He is isolated at
this point. It`s been a very difficult week.
I think the move shows Kushner`s influence. We know that Kushner and
Bannon often feuded. There have been a lot of questions about family first
and whether or not any one could rise above the Trump family. And right
now, the answer is no.
It also raises a lot of questions, though, about that protectionist agenda.
A lot of people saw Bannon as the champion of the America first disruptive
agenda. He was very successful in getting Trump to pull out TPP, pull out
of the Paris Climate Accord, implement the travel ban. Just last week,
Trump moved to make moves on trade with China, NAFTA is being renegotiated,
he was very successful in getting Trump.
HOLLIDAY: If you follow politics, you remember that whiteboard that
surfaced in some pictures on Twitter.
MELBER: We have the whiteboard. But this is a Bannon night, we`re going
through the whiteboard.
We also have breaking news I`m getting into our newsroom here, 6:09 pm on
the East Coast. We can report this, put in the context of a siren. Bannon
returned to “Breitbart News” as Executive Chairman and, they say, Charles
Spiering, their writer, chaired our evening editorial meeting. David Corn,
wasting no time. What does that tell you?
DAVID: Well, it`s going to be interesting to see how it helped
“Breitbart”, which, of course, was a Trump cheerleader, now figures out how
to take on the globalists and the enemies within in the White House, while
still supporting Trump if indeed they do.
“Breitbart” is perhaps one of the most polemical media outfits out there on
the right or the left and it`s more of a media strategy outfit than a
And so, here is Bannon with his platform, he may even turn to making
documentaries again. But by and large, I think the time has passed for a
place like “Breitbart” to have that much impact on Trump and his
MELBER: Do you agree with that?
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, POLITICAL AND INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, “THE NEW YORK
TIMES”: I`m not sure. Look, the best thing that Bannon ever had success
at was a media guy, as a filmmaker, as a producer of books and
documentaries, and media content.
In the West Wing, he was not as influential as he wanted to be, but he was
the biggest advocate for the things that made Trump a different kind of
Republican - for a trade war with China, for infrastructure spending, for a
tax hike on the 1 percent.
And those were the things that varied Trump away from traditional
Republicanism. And now who is left? You have bankers, Jared and Ivanka,
some nominal Democrats and ex-Democrats and a couple of Republicans. So,
it`s a very interesting White House now - yes, and generals.
MELBER: And yet, Olivia, the culture war, what some call, the race war
this week - is what it felt like - and the cult of personality on Donald
Trump would suggest that everything Nick said - and not really a critique
of what you`re saying - it`s that what you`re saying applies if you`re
keeping score by policy and personnel, which is how we`ve usually done it.
And yet, Olivia, does Donald Trump bet that he can move on without Bannon
because if everyone is screaming about statues, his people stay with him.
NUZZI: Look, I think when Donald Trump came out this week, again, I said
earlier, he knew already that Bannon was basically gone, but he still
defended the white nationalists who were there in Charlottesville, right?
He still came out and said very controversial things on Tuesday. I think
you must remember Donald Trump hates to be told what to do - period. He
wants to do what he feels like is right at any given moment.
I was talking to somebody close to the president today and they said this
idea that he`s playing three-dimensional chess and everyone else is playing
checkers is just wrong. This is an act on instincts.
MELBER: No, he`s acting on instincts. And Shelby lands a key point as
well to keep in mind, which is, you go against the family right - I mean,
Jay Z says in the new album, nobody wins when the family feuds. And it may
be if you`re feuding with Jared Kushner, you`re in trouble.
We`re going to fit in a break in our coverage. Nick Confessore and Olivia
Nuzzi, thank you as always for your reporting. David Corn and Shelby,
please stick around.
We`ve got plans for you, including fallback Friday plans. Now coming up,
does Steve Bannon take this so-called war to everyone against Trump and
does that include Republicans?
We`re also going to look at that infamous big whiteboard, the to-do list.
You can see it there with Rabbi Shmuley, what has been done on it.
And what does it take for an avowed Trump supporter to abandon ship? We
have a guest on tonight who had an op-ed that went viral explaining why
he`s renouncing his support for Donald Trump.
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT.
MELBER: What did Steve Bannon accomplish in his short tenure, 211 days to
be exact. We know some of his stated goals from that giant whiteboard in
his office listing campaign promises Bannon vowed to keep.
Olivia Nuzzi was just telling me that whiteboard is now in storage at the
Eisenhower Executive Office Building and Bannon told allies he was the
keeper of the flame for the nationalist agenda and Trump`s promises, like
ending Obamacare, didn`t happen; pledges on tax reform, nope; build the
border wall and eventually make Mexico pay for it, that was on the wall,
nothing there yet.
But Bannon also did claim some checks on his list. For example, suspend
immigration from terror-prone regions. Well, part of the travel ban
remains in effect. And implement new extreme immigration vetting
techniques. Also leaving the Paris Climate Accord.
But Bannon was never about just policy. He was also about messaging, like
America first, which made its way to the bully pulpit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
A new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it`s going to be
only America first. America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Professor and contributing Salon writer Brittney Cooper joins me
and David Corn is back. Brittney, how effective was he in a brief run for
a White House advisor?
BRITTNEY COOPER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, “SALON”: Well, it depends on how
we`re evaluating him. So, if we`re evaluating him on the message of white
nationalism, on what he likes to call economic nationalism, then he has
been really effective at giving legitimacy to the Trump presidency, at
giving Trump the kind of confidence to really go into the White House and
actually advance this very fringe-level agenda and to try to mainstream it.
In many ways, he`s really taking the Breitbart playbook and he had made the
White House successful. What the Breitbart playbook has been really since
2010 with the Shirley Sherrod incident is to muck up the national
conversation on race, to obscure how we talk about and think about
differences around justice and around how to bring people into the body
So, Bannon had granted a level of legitimacy for Trump with his base and
it`s going to be very interesting to see now that Breitbart is saying that
they are going to declare war on the White House.
COOPER: It`s interesting to see how it`s going to play with the base now.
MELBER: So, David, to paraphrase Brittney, tough talk, check; actual
deliverables for working class people, no check. And I`ll put up on the
screen one of them, Bannon would talk this stuff, talk that talk, David.
He would say here`s an idea that`s anathema to most Republicans, he told
Axios, raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for steep middle
and working-class tax cuts, also known in the Obama era by Republicans as
redistribution, but that didn`t happen, David.
CORN: Well, no. Every time you have sort of a conservative right-wing
national populism, it often starts out against the banks, the Wall Street,
the people in Washington who are lining their own pockets, and there is a
left critique of the establishment that comes along the same lines.
But here what we saw when Trump talked those terms, partly it`s Steve
Bannon`s instigation. They didn`t meet those terms. You look at the tax
plan. It`s a sop to the rich. There`s nobody else in the White House who
wants to raise taxes on the wealthy.
The swamp has not been drained. They`re adding water to it. There are
more lobbyists and corporate special interests involved in this
administration than the previous one.
So, there was a lot of talk, but sounded good to people out there who
wanted to see Washington shook up for the benefit of Main Street, not Wall
Street, but that didn`t happen at all. And it was pretty clear throughout
the campaign that that wasn`t going to happen.
MELBER: Right. The house always wins.
DAVID: He (INAUDIBLE) fiery bluster to this.
MELBER: Yes. The house and the banks seem to always win. David and
Brittney, both stay with me. I want to turn to a special interview here as
promised and then get your reaction.
Julius Krein was a big Trump backer on TV and in print until now. He just
renounced his support for Trump in an essay that`s gone viral, writing “I
can`t stand this disgraceful administration any longer,” rejecting Trump`s
comments on Charlottesville as morally disgusting and noting Trump`s
behavior has only grown more reprehensible.
He notes that he campaigned for Trump in dozens of writings and TV
appearances, even started a publication to advocate Trumpism, but he is now
recanting and calling on others to join him, writing “it`s now clear my
optimism was unfounded, I can`t stand by this disgraceful administration
any longer and I would urge anyone who once supported him, as I did, to
stop defending the 45th president.”
Joining me now is Julius Krein. Thanks for joining me on this busy news
JULIUS KREIN, EDITOR, AMERICAN AFFAIRS: Thank you.
MELBER: Why did you write this and why now?
KREIN: Well, I had been growing increasingly disillusioned with the
administration since Inauguration Day. And what happened in
Charlottesville and the response to it was, I guess, you`d say the last
And the genesis of it was - I actually - my publication, now I actually
talk with a lot of interesting people on the left and I`ve been in an
interesting kind of debate with them about Trump`s not that bad and all
that. And then I saw what happened this weekend. And you know what? They
were right all along? Trump is that bad. And they encouraged me to write
something and maybe it would help let other people know and change their
MELBER: Do you think he gave comfort to white supremacists?
MELBER: And what do you -?
KREIN: How else you can interpret - I don`t know how else you can
interpret his equivocation? There is no decent purpose for that.
MELBER: And what do you want to say to other Trump supporters, people that
might listen to you if your view is - you did believe in something there,
you were hoping for something, what do you want to say to them?
KREIN: Well, I still haven`t changed on certain of the core policies that
I thought he at least partially represented. And I think some of them, a
better trade policy, infrastructure spending, et cetera, et cetera, are
still good policies. And that agenda can go forward and I think even in an
emerging consensus, left, right and center can come together around that.
But it needs new leadership. And standing with Trump only tarnishes it.
And if we can get those policies passed, great. But they have nothing to
do with Trump.
MELBER: Are you sorry that you voted for him?
KREIN: Yes, I think I made that pretty clear.
MELBER: Yes. I want you to stay with me because it`s interesting. And
what you`re doing, it`s hard to do in life, let alone on a he public stage,
anyone who has to rethink a decision, a big one or a small one and say, as
you`ve said, that you think you`re wrong, but you want to do something
I want to bring David and Brittney back. Brittney, your response or
anything you want to say to Julius or ask him.
COOPER: I wish that I could feel more generous about this, but the writing
was on the wall throughout the entirety of the campaign. And so, while I`m
happy that folks are willing to reassess, that Julius is willing to
reassess, I`m mad that it took a young woman losing her life during the
presidency to cause this reassessment.
So, it didn`t take tear with them against Mexican-Americans and Mexican
folks who live here, it didn`t take tear against Muslim folks, it didn`t
take threats of a law and order presidency against black folks, but it took
the killing of a young white woman, who regrettably lost her life in order
to compel this sort of shift, that`s not acceptable.
It`s not acceptable that now that white people are losing folks to this
terrible battle that now we want to have a moral shift. People of color
have been saying throughout - when we looked at the campaign rallies, this
was the Trump campaign rally promises coming home to roost.
MELBER: Well, let me put that to Julius and give you the benefit of
response. Brittney, raising the issue, say, on the Muslim ban. This was a
candidate running on what many viewed as religious discrimination and the
other points she made. Your response?
KREIN: Well, I don`t want to be ungenerous myself, but I think you just
see there that - or why even though the left has a lot of better ideas on
economics, they don`t win elections. And I think Mark Lilla`s book on this
topic is one of the most important out today and that message needs to be
Now, I totally agree the writing was on the wall. And those of us who
failed to see it were wrong. But at the same time, it`s also true that - I
don`t think we should use that to diminish or pretend that what happened in
Charlottesville wasn`t another level.
And it wasn`t just me that felt that way. All of the major business
leaders, the head of the AFL-CIO. It`s kind of interesting no one
interviews them about this, but whatever.
So, I think it was a different moment. And in his past stupid things, he
would always say he didn`t mean it or apologize. And if you wanted to, at
least you could believe that he didn`t mean it, but that changed in this
case. So, like I said, I admit my mistake.
MELBER: David, do you have a question for Julius?
CORN: Well, I welcome all converts to reason. And I know how hard it is
to admit a mistake, particularly on television.
But to me, the sort of deal killer, if you want to put it, from all this
stuff early on was the fact that Donald Trump was a birther. He was
pushing a racist conspiracy theory for years. That`s how he became
prominent within conservative circles.
And I never quite understood why Mitt Romney, who now today is calling on
Trump to apologize, would seek his endorsement and embrace that endorsement
And I just - to me, on this network and other places, I talked about it
excessively, and so I just wonder why -
MELBER: What`s your question for Julius?
CORN: My question to Julius, with all due respect, would be why did that
not show you at the time that this was a fellow who had racist tendencies,
if he wasn`t a racist, and prone to irresponsible conspiracy theories and
that wasn`t enough to strike him from the list as possible presidents?
KRIEN: I think you answered your own question and I actually I find it
very bizarre to see all these Republicans now acting high and mighty about
it when they were happy to egg it on and Romney was happy with his
endorsement and the entire Republican Party obstructed Obama`s entire
agenda the whole time and made difficult to do anything sensible on
healthcare and a lot of other things.
And I would just add that a lot of the reason people were so desperate for
an alternative and willing to rationalize a lot of things that they
shouldn`t is because the consensus of both parties has failed terribly in
this country for the last 25 years. And that, more than any anonymous
blogging I ever did, is what paved the way to Trump`s election.
MELBER: Right. And I`ve got to say this. I`m just speaking as a person
here. You`re speaking out more clearly than a lot of people who have
constituents who are public officials and who seem even this week to have
it both ways, although I think David and Britney also raise some important
So, I guess, this is one of those panels in the news where I get to say I
appreciate everything everyone brought and there`s more than one way to
look at it.
Julius, I hope you`ll come back on THE BEAT. I appreciate you giving us
your perspective. David Corn, peace. I`ll see you another day. And
Britney Cooper, I`ll see you later in the show. I think that`s everything.
Coming up, does Steve Bannon`s departure spell real change inside the Trump
White House and what will Bannon do, now that he is, confirmed tonight,
back at “Breitbart”.
MELBER: 6:30 p.m. on the East Coast, we have even more brand new
developing news on this busy news night with Steve Bannon leaving the White
House. He just gave an interview with the conservative Weekly Standard and
he says, “The Trump Presidency that we fought for and won is over. We
still have a huge movement and will make something of this Trump Presidency
but that Presidency is over.” Steve Bannon is essentially putting himself
as the before and after line in this chaotic first six months.
Now, inside the administration he was the leading voice of what he called
economic nationalism and a link between Trump and the base. A man who
reportedly cheered Trump`s very controversial comments on Charlottesville,
Bannon saying they were not the lowest point in his Presidency but a
defining moment where Trump decided to fully abandon globalists inside with
“his people.” Think about what that means and what that says after a week
like this. Who are “his people”? And this is a part of a broader
combative style that pitted Bannon`s nationalism against everyone else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST: It`s not only not
going to get better. It`s going to get worse every day. And here`s why,
by the way, the internal logic makes sense. They`re corporatists,
globalists media that are adamantly opposed – adamantly opposed to an
economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Going to get worse. That was how he campaigned in public. Bannon
back at Breitbart tonight, chairing an editorial meeting as we reported and
arguing that Trump`s decision is an effort to save his Presidency after
Charlottesville, that`s one writer put it but that is not universal, a
reaction to this week`s race war opposed by Bannon himself. Sources close
to him saying he submitted his resignation to the President on August 7th,
not in connection with Charlottesville. Bannon out amidst still the most
tense racial week of Trump`s Presidency. While we are noting, for you to
understand journalistically, this whole time line is in dispute by the
So, are we watching a reaction, would be the question tonight or are we
reacting to a side show? As Lauryn Hill sometimes says consequence is no
coincidence. And that`s the question. Is this a consequence of this week?
Leah Wright Rigueur is a Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Case
School of Government and the author of a book on the quote loneliness of
black Republicans. I`m curious your view on all of this tonight.
LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, HARVARD CASE SCHOOL PROFESSOR: All of this. I mean,
this has been a lot. You know, what`s the saying, winter is coming. I
think winter is already here. So, if you think about this a little bit,
this is actually not related to Charlottesville. I think there are people
who will try to spin it as such but this is something that pre-dates
Charlottesville. This is something that is rooted in the relationship
between Steve Bannon and the people surrounding Donald Trump that he`s
clashed with over the course of the administration. And at the end of the
day, Steve Bannon has already had his impact particularly in creating this
idea about white identity politics and this kind of cult personality around
Donald Trump. So those things have been there in the White House and they
will be – they will remain there after Steve Bannon is gone from the White
MELBER: And what do you make of again, this quote coming in just into our
news room moments ago. It`s that kind of Friday night and I should mention
the White House may have wanted this as a story to go away which is why
it`s a Friday news on Steve Bannon, we reporting is at Breitbart News
chairing editorial meetings. He`s giving interviews to Joshua Green who
wrote the book about Bannon and Trump that reportedly angered Trump. And
now he`s telling the Weekly Standards, we have a huge movement. We`ll make
something of this Trump Presidency but that Presidency is over. It will be
something else. What does that mean he sees himself as, Leah?
RIGUEUR: Right. So Steve Bannon sees himself as chaos, right? He`s chaos
kind of personified. This is all who he has been. He`s the same man who
has petty politics who goes after all of these people he`s defined as his
enemies, who has an apocalyptic vision of vengeance in America and in the
world. This is what we`re seeing kind of play out. But what`s interesting
is that he has kind of defined himself and is positioning himself as the
man who made Donald Trump and helped elect Donald Trump and who
hypothetically can take down everything around Donald Trump. What would
really happen? I don`t – I don`t know.
MELBER: And let me get your – let me get your reaction to what he said
famously at the Vatican where he was discussing these far right groups
internationally and the baggage they bring. And here, we`re seeing
obviously some of the same tensions in our own country. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BANNON: I believe the world and particularly will Judeo-Christian west is
in a crisis.
We were the first group to get in and start reporting on things like UKIP
and front national and other center right. With all the baggage those
groups bring and trust me, a lot of them bring a lot of baggage both
ethnically and racially, but we think that will be worked through time.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: It was a discussion saying you can work through the fringe
elements or the hate elements and still have a conservative movement. How
do you think he`s doing on that tonight?
RIGUEUR: Yes. So what Steve Bannon did and what Donald Trump helped him
do was essentially pull the mask off of civility of the Republican Party
and the fringe elements of Republican Party. He brought it out into the
daylight, he brought – he used a megaphone with it and really broadcast
kind of these – you know, the underbelly of kind of these different
groups. I think what`s going on here is this kind of introduction of this
idea of white nationalism and mainstreaming white nationalism in a way that
kind of repackaging it, making it kind of nice and neat and suggesting that
there`s something – there`s something there to build on. Now Donald Trump
has completely taken advantage of that and so he`s still connected to this
movement. This is – this is the movement that made up his base. And so,
it`s important to kind of see these connections and see really the movement
that has emerged from this really complicated moment.
MELBER: Harvard professor Leah Wright Rigueur, you put this in such an
important context. I feel like we will be hearing from you more and more.
Thanks for joining tonight.
RIGUEUR: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Straight ahead, will Steve Bannon be more powerful as some of his
allies claimed now that he`s outside? What lies ahead for the man working
the phones tonight? We have the latest up ahead.
MELBER: Steve Bannon out of the white house today and working over time
tonight, Friday, back at Breitbart. President Trump essentially a third
party President when you think about the positions he has distinct from the
two parties and Steve Bannon apparently positioning himself to now be a
fourth party, a party on the other edge of Trumpism itself. The man is
reentering his old orbit at Breitbart, he`s more famous than ever, he says
he`s more conservative to the base and he says he is the true Trumpian.
But he`s also distinct from the President and won`t be afraid to call out
people inside the White House.
Axios reporting, Bannon told associates he has a “killing machine in
Breitbart News and he`s ready to go to war but for Trump.” You can figure
out the tensions there. Today some at Breitbart were still hitting at
Trump writing with Bannon gone, Donald Trump risks becoming oh no, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, a dirty word in Republican politics. And last month, we
saw this line, move over President Donald Trump, you`re yesterday`s news.
It seems like this is now the Scaramucci show. That was Breitbart pushing
back. Well, this story, H.R. McMaster deeply hostile to Israel and to
Trump. I wonder who place that and all those kind of headlines here, a
bunch of them going after Jared Kushner. So if Bannon is positioning as a
fourth party, does that weaken the President and are their other cracks
among backers tonight. Billionaire Carl Icahn now cutting ties at the end
of this week saying, he will no longer be a presidential advisor.
And we know that other removed advisers like Roger Stone and Corey
Lewandowski still staying in contact reportedly with President Trump. So
Bannon can choose his world view or his fourth party or a Bannon party or a
Bannon media model. He`s just going to have to make sure everyone is
straight on what he`s doing. I`m joined now by Liz Plank a Senior
Correspondent from Vox, Wil Hylton Contributing Editor for the New York
Times Magazine who just profiled Breitbart in a brand new piece Down the
Breitbart hole and Kurt Bardella who has worked with Bannon at Breitbart.
Kurt, is this a surprise and what will he do next?
KURT BARDELLA, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR BREITBART NEWS: No, because I think
functioning in a lot of ways, Steve never really left Breitbart. If fact
he even got a retroactive waiver so that he could stay in contact with
Breitbart. But I think what you`re going to see now is Steve be Steve.
He`s going to go after the “west wing Democrats” that he believes have
hijacked the President that they all knew the audience that Breitbart had
voted for. He`s going to say that Gary Cohn and Ivanka Trump and Jared and
Donald Junior have hijacked Donald Trump and he`s going to go after every
single one of them. And he`s also going to be very, very aggressive by
going after people like Speaker – House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator
Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, the Republicans that he will say are
obstructing the President`s agenda, obstructing the populist agenda that
they had voted for in the first place.
MELBER: Well, speak to Kurt`s point that maybe he never left Breitbart,
that we sort of thought about this as usual perhaps since the old fashion
way and how Steve Bannon used media and money to link to Trump. I`m going
to play here some of their old interviews during the campaign when they
were allies but on different sides of that table.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BANNON: Let me ask you, the GOP smart set which Breitbart identified all
these kind of intellectuals or quasi-intellectuals –
TRUMP: I don`t think we should call them the smart set. You know what,
they`re wrong so often.
BANNON: We do it to –
TRUMP: I think we belittle ourselves by calling them the smart set. You
know, they call them the GOP elite. I don`t think they`re elite. I think
we`re the elites. I think we`re really the elites because we`re the ones
that are right.
WIL HYLTON, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Steve Bannon came
into Breitbart officially when Andrew Breitbart died. And he was put into
kind of replace Breitbart as the outsized figure in charge of the company.
So he had known Breitbart for a long time but he had no role with the
company before Breitbart`s death. And immediately upon arriving at
Breitbart, he completely weaponized the place. I mean, he took it from
what Andrew Breitbart had envisioned as being principally focused on
criticizing the culture, media, and entertainment primarily and he made
instead a political machine that was going to back candidates and create
these sort of hysterical headlines and outrageous stories often
extraordinarily offensive and he just absolutely transformed what Breitbart
And he built it into the powerhouse that it is but immediately upon his
departure, you started to see a shift at Breitbart back towards the norm,
in way. What you started to see was the Editor in Chief Alexander Marlow
start to pull back from the extreme positions that Bannon had led it into
and tone it down. Now, whether or not that was going to be a good business
model is a very important question to think about but what Bannon is going
to do back in chair is he`s going to take it right back where it was when
he was in charge before.
MELBER: Well, and Liz Plank to that point new in the news room. It sounds
like there`s something for every segment and that`s not on purpose. It`s
just that Steve Bannon is busy. He`s telling the Weekly Standard now, he`s
got his hands back on his weapons.
LIZ PLANK, VOX.COM SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Interesting. I mean, to use a
mean girls analogy just because I`m on your show. If Donald Trump is the
Regina George of politics, Steve Bannon just became the Lindsay Lohan`s
character. He is now away from the squad but he is more powerful that way.
And what I see is a true sort of opportunity. You know, I`ve been speaking
to a lot of Republican women when I ask them about Ivanka Trump, for
example, one of the more progressive, liberal members of the
administration. They say I like her. You know, I don`t like her gender
gap stuff, I don`t like her stance on the environment, but they`re able to
look beyond that. With Breitbart really digging into those rifts between
the administration, I think that we can see a true divide happening in
Republican Party and in Trump supporters.
MELBER: Well, I think the point you make is very fetched.
MELBER: Wil, where do we go from here? I mean, Steve Bannon is obviously
going to enrage Donald Trump if he uses his new-found fame. He`s more
famous because of Trump than he ever was in the prior 50 plus years. He`s
going to enrage him if this is how he does it.
HYLTON: Yes, I think he probably is going to enrage him. I mean, he may
not even intend to. I suspect that Bannon`s perspective right this very
minute is that he`s going to save Donald Trump from all these people who
are corrupting the Trump agenda. That`s certainly how Steve has positioned
himself on these issues. That he and Trump share this vision and it`s all
these Wall Street Democrats in the west wing who are standing in the way of
it. That`s how it feels and that`s the war he`s going to wage. He`s going
to wage a war that he thinks is against all of the people who are opposing
Trump`s righteous agenda but what he`s probably going to end up doing is
alienating Trump because he`s going to make it hard for Trump to work with
the people around him.
MELBER: Wil and Kurt, thank you for your expertize on this topic. Liz,
stick around. Coming up, like Trump, Steve Bannon transcend in politics.
He was a pop cultural figure and subject for some incredible late night
comedy. We have that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t start without Steve Bannon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s walking in right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) fun for tonight. Can I have my desk back?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course, Mr. President, I`ll go sit at my desk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve I`m sorry but it`s goodbye. Take him back to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It happened on SNL before it happened in real life. I`m sure
folks are going to miss that part of the Steve Bannon legacy, the comedy.
Now my question for you is who needs to fall back on this Friday? Yes,
we`re back by popular demand. OK, maybe not really but we are going to do
“FALLBACK FRIDAY” again right after this.
MELBER: We`ve been reporting on the latest developments on Steve Bannon
leaving the White House. You might stay the controversial adviser had to
fall back. And that made us think of our favorite segment here on THE
BEAT. Queue the music. Yes. It has been a long week for all of us but
“FALLBACK FRIDAY” is here a segment that always goes well except when it
doesn`t. Fallback means to chill out, to relax or reassess some of your
life choices. And I`m joined by Brittney Cooper, Liz Plank, and Shelby
Holliday all here for “FALLBACK FRIDAY.” Thank for being here.
PLANK: Thanks, Ari.
HOLLIDAY: Thanks for having us.
MELBER: Liz, who needs fall back?
PLANK: Paris Hilton right, hasn`t been relevant in a while but she is now.
She made comments in 2016, the comments have just leaked now. She gave an
interview you know, just before the election and basically was asked about
Donald Trump`s accusers. Remember that?
PLANK: You remember the good old days when Donald Trump was accused by
multiple women of sexual assault and she said that these women were just
after money and that they just were after attention.
MELBER: So you want her to fall back.
PLANK: Yes. You know, it`s not – I`m not a way to make money.
MELBER: I want to – I want to go to Brittney. We`ll let`s – do you want
to put the music? We`ll put the music on again because I – we may – you
won`t always have it playing a little bit.
HOLLIDAY: We need a deejay in here Ari. We need – let`s put him in the
COOPER: Tina Fey needs to fall back. She made some tasteless jokes about
a sheet cake movement that essentially – and were feeling bad about
Charlottesville, we should bury our feelings in cake. She just paint the
cake in the shape of an American Flag and eats that. It`s not clearly how
that points us in –
MELBER: How that`s going to help. I think we have that. Let`s take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: Instead of participating in the screaming matches and
potential violence, order a cake with the American flag on it. Like this
one and just eat it, Collin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What is that going do? We need real solutions and we need our
comics to have good social commentary with humor. That`s the thing that
helps us get clear about the problems. But look, you know, clearly I love
cake but cake is not the solution to white supremacy.
MELBER: I love cake, too. What was the premise of the joke? Really, I
mean, I guess, it`s hard to – it`s hard to – I mean, I – by the way, I
love Tina Fey. It`s hard to take a week like this and make a joke. But
then (INAUDIBLE) maybe what she says. I mean, maybe it`s too soon that why
your saying fall back. Maybe it`s too soon for this jokes.
HOLLIDAY: It was a serious week in comedy too. My fallback is (INAUDIBLE)
MELBER: Wait, did you just do a transition?
HOLLIDAY: Football fan.
HOLLIDAY: I earn my shot. OK. For all the football fans out there, Huge
Freeze the former Ole Miss Football coach has been falling back and it`s
been an even worse week for him. There are reports about hundreds of phone
calls he made. He is under investigation for the alleged recruiting
violation but this man stepped down from his post after he used the
university planes and a university phone and called escorts on his
recruiting. So he`s out. Sorry, Ole Miss.
MELBER: Unequivocal fallback.
HOLLIDAY: But just a – jut a disgusting story so get out of here.
MELBER: I`ll give you guys – gals my fallback.
HOLLIDAY: Yes. Who`s –
MELBER: But it`s not as kind of sharp as some of yours. I want Disney to
fall back. They are proposing a new streaming service to compete with
Netflix. Disney Executives are very excited about the prospect of this. I
just feel obviously with the TV show, it`s important to bring up these big
issues. I already – it`s too many different places, I`m looking for
video. I can`t figure out what`s on the video. On Netflix, I feel like
never the movies I want are on there but then (INAUDIBLE) your buying then
and now there`s going to be – I`m going to have to go to another Disney
stream. This was supposed to get easier so that`s why I`m saying straight
up Disney fall back. I hope you hear me but, does anyone share this
COOPER: It`s a subscription. So I have subscriptions to everything.
Apple music, (INAUDIBLE), Netflix, how many – so they`re going to nickel
and dime us with subscriptions. This is not a way to serve customers well.
So I need these folks to stop thinking of more things to do with my money
and think of –
HOLLIDAY: So, what if they create awesome content with that money? And
maybe we`ll be happy. Well, we have awesome content on THE BEAT so we can
just watch that.
MELBER: You write about millennial issues and stuff, right? Don`t you
feel there`s too many places?
PLANK: For sure. I think, everyone is trying to become the streaming
service, right? Everyone is trying to replace each other so it doesn`t
surprise me that this is what they`re doing because there`s a lot of money
to make. Disney has a lot of shows on Netflix. But obviously for the
consumers, it`s just kind of annoying, you know. There`s – also too many
shows even just on Netflix.
HOLLIDAY: There`s too many passwords.
COOPER: I mean, look, the one thing that these sort of all sites kind of
plays some Netflix, even channels like (INAUDIBLE) are doing, if they`re
revolutionizing content for people of color. So you get Master of None on
Netflix on the way that couldn`t get.
MELBER: You wouldn`t get.
COOPER: That`s right. And you know, that`s one of the best TV shows this
year. So that kind of work is important.
MELBER: I love Master of None. I do think that Disney needs to fall back
with all the pasta references, all food all the time.
COOPER: I don`t know about his Italian –
PLANK: Like he`s been making it right now and we need them to start on it.
MELBER: You want more. All right, Brittney, Liz, Shelby, a little levity
after a long week for “FALLBACK FRIDAY.” Thank you all. I appreciate it.
You can always find us on Facebook and Twitter @THEBEATWITHARI or us e-mail
email@example.com. There`s that music, that`s how you know it`s Friday. I`ll
see you next week, “HARDBALL” starts now.
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