THE HILL: Bannon returns from exile to wage impeachment battle for Trump

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon has returned from exile to defend President Trump, believing the presidency is imperiled and that Trump is in urgent need of a more robust defense against the House impeachment inquiry.

Bannon spent the past two years on a journey to spark populist movements at hotspots around the world after he was banished from Trump’s inner circle and cut off from Breitbart News, where he was executive chairman, for trash-talking members of the president’s family to author Michael Wolff in the book “Fire and Fury.”

Now the impeachment fight has called him back to Washington.

Bannon is underwriting a new media venture from the basement of his Capitol Hill home, known affectionately among allies as “the Breitbart Embassy,” where he’ll broadcast live, seven days a week, from now until the Senate votes on impeachment.

Bannon, draped in his trademark green military coat, spoke to The Hill after recording the fourth episode of his “War Room: Impeachment” podcast at a dining table covered in a tangle of wires, microphones, computers and headphones.

Scrawling thoughts in a small, black leather notebook, with a Red Bull and Thursday’s Washington Post in front of him, Bannon said he’s not trying to get back into the administration — he says he’s just a Trump fan who recognizes the historic nature of the impeachment proceedings and believes the White House does not have an adequate defense strategy.

The Democrats, Bannon said, are routing Republicans with their top-shelf impeachment messaging operation as they investigate Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.

“It’s a master class in disinformation warfare,” Bannon said.

The former Breitbart executive said he’s alarmed by polls showing support for impeachment is growing, particularly among independents.

He said he believes the likelihood of Trump’s removal is “remote,” but worries that even a Senate acquittal will “stop the arc of the Trump presidency.”

“The argument that this is all fake news and a deep state witch hunt is just not working,” Bannon said. “Look at the polls. Look at independents. It’s brutal. That’s got to be a fire bell in the night.”

The podcast launched on Saturday and is catching on in Trump World.

Former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller is on board, as is Raheem Kassam, who was Nigel Farage’s “Brexit” adviser.

The hourlong episodes air on a radio show anchored by John Fredericks, an influential conservative talker with a big audience in Virginia.

Fredericks, a 2020 Trump campaign advisory board member, has helped produce the show from the “Breitbart Embassy,” which is curated in Bannon’s unique style.

A framed Breitbart “honey badger” poster hangs across from a cartoon rendering of Hillary Clinton buying jewelry from an African militant beneath the words, “Warlord Economics.”

A glass trophy from a group called “The Remembrance Society” honoring Bannon’s “tireless pursuit of freedom” sits on a shelf below a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” rattlesnake print.

There are a handful of aides and family members passing through or working makeshift stations where podcast episodes are uploaded online.

The right-wing website “Gateway Pundit” has been airing the episodes live, and Miller said they’re in talks with other outlets, including One America News Network, to air clips of the show.

Bannon says he plans to clear out the living room in the basement to launch his own war room, complete with a rapid response team, a media booker and a polling outlet.

“I’m going all in now, I’ve got to,” Bannon said. “We’re riding to the sound of guns.”

Bannon says he’s been inundated with calls from allies eager to contribute.

“War Room: Impeachment” already has the attention of some of Trump’s highest profile defenders on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who dialed in Thursday.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who led the effort to physically disrupt the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill this week, will call in Friday.

The show is a platform for Bannon’s kinetic flair and penchant for the dramatic.

Over the course of Thursday’s hourlong episode, Bannon made multiple references to “star chambers” on Capitol Hill and West Point “decoder rings.”

After the episode, Bannon told The Hill about a separate radio show he’s been broadcasting from the New York City home of billionaire investor Guo Wengui, who goes by the name of Miles Kwok in the U.S.

Bannon said that show had circumvented Chinese firewalls to reach millions of people in the country, and he counted himself among the “black hands” behind the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

But broadly, the new “War Room” podcast aims to be a granular breakdown of the impeachment evidence being gathered on Capitol Hill, as well as strategic advice for the president’s allies and a warning to supporters that they must take the threat of impeachment seriously.

“This is already having a dramatic impact on the Trump presidency,” Bannon said. “There is not a single trend cutting toward the White House. I’m a math guy. I see the polls. This is not working…in less than four weeks they’re voting to impeach. Can someone start working 24 hours a day around here?”

There are still a few bugs to work out.

The show ended about 30 seconds early after an ad failed to load and Bannon didn’t realize a hot mic picked up some loose remarks.

“We gotta get this f***ing thing synced,” Bannon fumed. “I gotta have a clock that f***ing works!”

But mostly, Bannon seems thrilled to be back in the middle of a political fight that he views as a defining moment in American politics.

Several times over the course of the interview with Meadows, he raised his arms in triumphant victory.

“Boom!,” he shouted during a commercial break, pounding his fist into the table. “This is great!”

READ IN FULL AT THE HILL


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