Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, did not hold back from criticizing the “Republican establishment” in his first television interview since leaving the White House.
Bannon, who has returned to his former website, Breitbart News, after leaving his White House post, was viewed as an outsider who helped shape Trump’s populist agenda, and he famously feuded with the more moderate advisers of the administration as well as the Republican leadership in Congress.
He took particular aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented. It’s very obvious,” Bannon said in an interview with “60 Minutes.”
According to Bannon, McConnell asked Trump to stop using “drain the swamp” — his famous campaign mantra — on Day 1 of his presidency.
Now back at Breitbart, Bannon said he plans on going to war with the so-called “establishment” in Washington.
“The swamp is a business model,” he said. “The permanent political class, as represented by both parties. You’re not going to — you’re not going to drain that in eight months. You’re not going to drain it in two terms. This is going to take 10, 15, 20 years of relentlessly going after it.”
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Bannon said he’ll also keep fighting for Trump and his agenda. After Trump’s comments about the violence in Charlottesville caused a firestorm, Bannon pointed out that he was the only one who defended the president. But when pushed by interviewer Charlie Rose as to why Trump did not immediately denounce Neo-Nazis and white nationalists, Bannon doubled down.
“What he was trying to say is that people that support the monument staying there peacefully and people that oppose that, that’s the normal course of First Amendment,” said Bannon.
He continued, “When he’s talking about the Neo-Nazis and Neo-Confederates and the Klan, who, by the way, are absolutely awful — there’s no room in American politics for that. There’s no room in American society for that. My problem — my problem, and I told General Kelly this, when you side with a man, you side with him. I was proud to come out and try to defend President Trump in the media that day.”
Bannon pointed fingers at members of the Trump administration and early supporters of Trump’s campaign, who he said weren’t loyal to Trump when the cards were down. Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” interview came to be a “litmus test,” according to Bannon.
Bannon also went after the Bush administration for criticizing the Trump administration’s national security policy.
“The same geniuses that got us into Iraq, that’s the geniuses of the Bush administration. I hold these people in contempt, total and complete contempt,” said Bannon. “You know, the Condi Rice, the George W. Bush, his entire national security apparatus.”
And Bannon shrugged off the media’s criticisms of him, including the “grim reaper” image of him on “Saturday Night Live.”
“I don’t need the affirmation of the mainstream media. I don’t care what they say. They can call me an anti-Semite. They can call me racist. They call me nativist. You can call me anything you want. OK? As long as we’re driving this agenda for the working men and women of this country, I’m happy,” said Bannon.