We know Donald Trump removed Stephen Bannon from his seat on the National Security Council this week. We're less clear on why.The only version of events that's implausible is the one the White House is pushing
. According to Team Trump, Bannon was only appointed to a full seat on the principals committee of the NSC to help keep an eye on Michael Flynn. That, of course, would suggest the president didn't trust his own National Security Advisor. And since Flynn resigned in February, it doesn't explain why it took so long for Bannon to be demoted.The behind-the-scenes explanation, as reported
by the New York Times
, is much easier to believe.
Mr. Bannon resisted the move, even threatening at one point to quit if it went forward, according to a White House official who, like others, insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. [...]Moreover, Mr. Bannon's Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing's only leading man. 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.
As if to prove the point, Steven Colbert said
last night, "Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council. No word on when he'll step down from his role as president."There was a joke that made the rounds in early February that Steve Bannon was in trouble in the White House because the aide was featured on the cover
magazine. Trump would be outraged, the joke went, because only he's
allowed to be on the cover of Time magazine.Two months later, perhaps there was something to this joke after all.As for the scuttlebutt that Bannon considered resigning -- something the chief White House strategist publicly denies -- Politico reports
that a Republican mega-donor recently had to convince Bannon to stay at his West Wing post.
Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a longtime Bannon confidante who became a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, urged Bannon not to resign. "Rebekah Mercer prevailed upon him to stay," said one person familiar with the situation.Another person familiar with the situation, a GOP operative who talks to Mercer, said: "Bekah tried to convince him that this is a long-term play."Bannon has worked closely with Mercer not only at the right-wing website Breitbart News, where her family is a major investor and where he served as executive chairman until joining the Trump campaign in August, but also at Cambridge Analytica, the data-analytics firm owned largely by the Mercers. Bannon is a part owner of the firm, though he's trying to sell his stake, and until recently he served as vice president of the company's board.
Hmm. So, the Mercers haven't just played a role in elevating Trump and his team to the White House, and aren't just financing ads
intended to boost Trump's popularity, they're also playing a direct role in keeping allied staffers in the West Wing -- as part of "a long-term play."Good to know.