Whether or not the president's son, son-in-law and campaign manger meeting with Russians was "treasonous" is still largely in the eye of the partisan beholder. The much more serious remarks in Steve Bannon's recently publicized rant about the first family did not get enough attention and are harder to dismiss.
Bannon was "chief executive" of the president's 2016 campaign. Then he was senior counselor to President Donald Trump. He once, briefly, had a seat on the National Security Council. He left the White House after seven months. Bannon had a long history of being trusted by the president while being at odds with the president's family, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and son Donald Trump Jr. As CEO of the campaign, Bannon had a relationship with campaign manager Paul Manafort that was best described as awkward. Since leaving the administration, he fought the president in important matters such as the Alabama U.S. Senate race, in which he opposed the president's favored candidate.
Excerpts from a new book made headlines, most of them concentrating on this quote from Bannon: "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad [excrement], and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately." He referred to the now-infamous June 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower in New York between Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort with a Russian attorney who supposedly had "dirt" on the president's campaign rival, Hillary Clinton.
That remark can plausibly be dismissed as the rankled outburst of a ousted member of the inner circle. Another excerpt cannot. It refers to Andrew Weissmann, chief of the criminal fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate any connections between the president's campaign and Russia-based election interference, pulled Weissmann out of his regular role and put him on the team very early in the investigation. In layman's terms, Weissmann is one of the most famous -- as far as fraud investigators can be famous -- money laundering experts in the country. He spent years putting Mafia members in prison.
"You realize where this is going," Bannon is quoted as saying in a book excerpt published in the Guardian newspaper. "This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to [expletive] Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner."
"It's as plain as a hair on your face," he says after going on a bit in that vein.
Bannon did not stop there. "It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner [excrement]. The Kushner [excrement] is greasy. They're going to go right through that. They're going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me," apparently referring to Kushner and Trump Jr. Deutsche Bank is a German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the president's family enterprises. The Trumps became largely dependent on Deutsche Bank after New York-based lenders basically cut them off. Manafort, meanwhile, and his partner in a consulting firm were indicted in October for laundering money stolen by a pro-Russian puppet government from the Ukraine.
"They're going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV," Bannon is quoted as saying.
All this is the equivalent of James Carville getting fired by Bill Clinton because he could not get along with Hillary and Chelsea, then going out and saying key portions of the scandal-mongering Clinton Chronicles are true.
Whatever else he is, Bannon was present at the creation and not stupid. Those who want to call him "treasonous" to the president have the right to say such things. Remember, though, what Thucydides said of traitors: What makes them so dangerous is that they know where the real vulnerabilities lie.
The president's response to Bannon's remarks were coldly livid. "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party."
Right. A mere "staffer" was named senior counselor to president and given a seat on the National Security Council. The smear, which goes on, is absurd on its face.
Commentary on 01/06/2018
Print Headline: Et tu, Bannon?