After Steve Bannon had some provocative things to say about the Russia scandal, Donald Trump effectively went to war with his former chief strategist, declaring in a written statement that Bannon has, among other things, "lost his mind."
But if this was the opening shot in the conflict, the second salvo came last night. The Washington Post reported:
Late Wednesday, lawyers for Trump sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bannon, arguing he violated the employment agreement he signed with the Trump Organization in numerous ways and also likely defamed the president. They ordered that he stop communicating either confidential and or disparaging information, and preserve all records in preparation for "imminent" legal action."You have breached the Agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company, disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company," read the letter from lawyer Charles Harder.
It's almost as if Trump World is eager to force Bannon to shut up.
And who knows, maybe the threatening letter will have its intended effect. Perhaps Bannon, who's suddenly short on friends, will find all of this pushback intimidating, and he'll quickly back down. It's possible this intra-party "war" will come to a surprisingly prompt end.
But I hope not. It'd be vastly more entertaining if Trump World followed through on its threats and actually sued Bannon for violating his non-disclosure agreement. The discovery process alone would be amazing.
Postscript: As expected, the White House is taking fresh steps to pretend Bannon was an irrelevant and peripheral figure. This exchange from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' briefing yesterday stood out as notable:
REPORTER: Sarah, the statement -- the president's statement suggests that Steve Bannon had very little influence in the White House. But the president himself elevated him to the same level as the chief of staff and put him on the National Security Council. How do you reconcile that?SANDERS: I wouldn't say that he elevated him to the same level of the chief of staff.
I would. The week after the 2016 presidential election, Trump's transition team announced that Reince Priebus would be the White House chief of staff, Bannon would be chief White House strategist, and the two would work "as equal partners." The official statement listed Bannon's name and title first.
It's a little late for Sanders to pretend otherwise now.