Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart and former White House chief strategist, sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Charlie Rose of “60 minutes.” Topics included draining the swamp, DACA, Republican infighting, and Russia. Here are some of the highlights:
“The Republican establishment is trying to nullify the 2016 election. That’s a brutal fact we have to face.”
Bannon said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are against President Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda. He cited a meeting with McConnell early in President Donald Trump’s term in which Bannon said McConnell expressed opposition to Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp.”
Bannon said he believes the “swamp,” which he defines as the “business model” of the Republican Party over the past several decades, has been so profitable for those who helped build it that those establishment Republicans will resist attempts to change it.
“You’re not gonna drain that in eight months,” Bannon said. “You’re not gonna drain it in two terms. This is gonna take 10, 15, 20 years of relentlessly going after it.”
On Obamacare: “I think their choice is gonna be you’re not gonna be able to totally repeal it.”
Health care reform was supposed to be the first thing the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress would overhaul.
Bannon said Ryan and other Republican lawmakers promised it would be done by Easter, and then they’d move on to tax reform to have that done by August. Then, they’d finish the year with an infrastructure bill.
Now, it’s September and none of those important legislative items have been tackled, and Bannon is conceding that, in his opinion, there is little hope of a repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act. The best that can be hoped for is an improvement of the law.
“There is something that’s being worked on now to fix Obamacare,” Bannon said.
Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, announced Thursday that a bipartisan health care bill was in the works and could be released in less than two weeks.
On DACA: “I’m worried about losing the House now because of DACA. And my fear is that with this six months down range, if we have another huge — if this goes all the way down to its logical conclusion, in February and March it will be a civil war inside the Republican party that will be every bit as vitriolic as 2013.
Bannon disagrees with Trump’s handling of DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. The administration announced the amnesty program would be phased out beginning last week and over the course of the next six months, during which time Congress will presumably work on a legislative solution to the problem of the “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Bannon’s concern is that this divisive issue will cause a deeper rift in the party than already exists, which could be damaging to the GOP’s hold on the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. In Bannon’s opinion, the administration should have taken a more hard-line stance on immigration and moved forward.
On Russia: “[Trump] criticizes the Russians all the time. He knows the Russians are not the good guys. We should be focused on how we bring the Cold War to an end so we don’t have to … $1 trillion to upgrade the nuclear arsenal. Is that where you wanna spend your money?
In response to Rose’s question about Trump’s perceived lack of criticism of Russia, Bannon makes the case that Trump does not want to needlessly create another enemy, and that resources that have gone in the past toward weaponry and defense should instead be invested back into American cities in need.