Loosely translated via Google Translate:
Fifteen minutes before broadcasting, [Steve Bannon] strolls into his war room, newly showered, with a Red Bull in his hand.
He cruises through a collection of assistants, nodding to everyone and no one: “How you doin ‘, brother?”
An aid has placed a bagel with fried eggs at his short side of the studio table. Wrapped in foil, the sandwich is atop of the morning newspapers. It’s breakfast time in Washington, D.C.
Steve Bannon is the chief strategist with nine lives. After staying the course of Donald Trump’s first year at the White House, Bannon left in August 2017. Since then, he has tried to rebuild himself as a freelance political impressario – a kingmaker in U.S. politics, and in Europe.
But after the European elections last spring, he seemed almost calculated on both sides of the Atlantic. Bannon’s vision of a global alliance of nationalist parties, collaborating ideologically and financially across borders, proved difficult with national campaign laws. A lot of talk in five star hotel suites, a little workshop.
But now Bannon has assumed yet another role – as a radio personality. Every morning, seven days a week, he and two colleagues broadcast an hour of Trump-friendly propaganda radio about the judicial process. The program, called “War Room: Impeachment”, is recorded in Bannon’s basement in Washington’s Capitol Hill power center.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he says.
Bannon no longer seems to be persona non grata in the Republican Party. On the contrary, conservative Congressmen line up as guests of the program. Bannon is generous with strategic advice. Some of his ideas are then repeated during the debates in Congress, in front of turned on TV cameras.
It’s a fitting moment for Bannon to make a comeback. The Supreme Court has completed the Republican Party’s transformation under Trump, the one that Bannon initiated as chief strategist. The party is now so subordinate to the president that some Republican congressional politicians have a hard time partying for Ukraine against Russia.
Republican politicians have said in interviews that it was Ukraine, and not Russia, or possibly Ukraine and Russia, that infiltrated the U.S. election campaign in 2016. Allies on conservative Fox News repeat the message. This in a party whose modern history was defined by opposition to the “Empire of Evil,” which Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union.
But Republican Steve Bannon has long had a different view of Russia.
“My point is that this is a Russian sphere of influence,” he says of Ukraine.
Does a weakened Ukraine and a militarily stronger Russia not worry him?
“First, Russia is a joke with an economy of the state of New York. Sure, it’s a kleptocracy with some bad guys controlling it. We have allied ourselves with bad guys in the past. If I don’t remember wrong, we were partners with Joseph Stalin during World War II. I want Russia on the U.S. side against China”.
Bannon is always prepared to see the rational in Trump’s actions. The president’s “extortion” of Ukraine, at the heart of today’s prosecution, is no exception. Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky on July 25 was “perfect,” says Bannon. A belligerent example of “America First,” the nationalist principle at the heart of Trump’s foreign and security policy.
“Every dollar we spend abroad must be reviewed, says Bannon. And you (Europe) have to help. If you are really so worried about Russian influence in Ukraine, you have to contribute more than just humanitarian aid. This is what I have said from day one: this is a conflict of fact”.
For 55 days, Trump stopped $391 million in U.S. tax dollars that Congress had decided would be transferred to Ukraine in military aid. Trump delayed the payout to get Ukraine to do a favor: investigate suspicions about Joe Biden.
But in Bannon’s version of the course of events, Trump at the same time increased the pressure on European states to contribute their own resources to the conflict. There was an underlying political strategy, says Bannon. Democrats argue the exact opposite: Trump pushed Ukraine to favor himself, not the country.
Should Trump have held the money even longer if this was “America First”?
“I think the transfer was okay. But would I rather have stopped the money elsewhere? In the Persian Gulf or in the Southeast Asian Lake? 100 percent!”
Bannon is tearing through the Washington Post, which has just launched a heavy review of the U.S. perpetual war in Afghanistan, the longest military conflict in the country’s history.
After three years of fighting, the Washington Post has published 2,000 secret documents – interview notes with 400 generals, diplomats, and aid workers who reveal that American politicians deliberately misled the public about the prospects of the war.
The magazine has named the review the “Afghanistan Papers”, a nod to the “Pentagon Papers” – leaked defense documents that revealed the truth about the Vietnam War when the New York Times published the contents of the 1971 document.
“This is it!” says Bannon about the Washington Post‘s report: “This shows what the permanent political class has done with this country. Eighteen fucking years! 2,400 dead! Two trillion dollars! My own daughter has just retired from the army. Her sergeants made six, seven, eight turns to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their families are completely destroyed.
“I am obsessed with this – because it is the key itself that serves up national law. This is the root of the problem! This is what the interagency consensus leads to in practice.”
The concept of the interagency consensus – institutional consensus – emerged in the impeachment hearings. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a former Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, described in a hearing the shadow cabinet that Trump handpicked to pressure Ukraine. The group, led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, countered the interagency consensus, Vindman said. Thus: [Trump] fought the institutional consensus that has guided diplomats and security experts in Ukraine policy.
Bannon abhors institutional consensus. After Trump won the November 2016 election, Bannon explained that the Trump government’s goal was to “deconstruct the administrative state.” That is to say: disrupt institutional consensus, crush the bureaucratic status quo that, according to Bannon, has failed the American people.
That’s exactly what Trump was trying to do in Ukraine, Bannon claims. And the Washington Post‘s scoop on Afghanistan is reminiscent of why, according to Bannon, it is necessary to round on the foreign policy establishment. He drums his fingers against the front page. The paper reveals, among other things, that the government transferred money to recipients who were known to be corrupt and blind to the consequences.
“In the past, liberal media would have thrown themselves at this,” says Bannon. Now it has barely touched on it, except for the [Washington Post]. Why? Because it is proves Trump’s point.
What is it really in American-Ukraine policy that Bannon opposes? The diplomats who testified in Congress say that they have executed the government’s line.
It is now a few minutes to the live broadcast of the 68th episode of “War Room: Impeachment” and Bannon is busy scribbling down support words in his checkered notepad.
He directs my question to his radio colleague, Raheem Kassam. Kassam is a 33-year-old British man dressed in blue-gray jacket and silk scarf. He was previously editor of the right-wing populist site Breitbart London, and adviser to the UK party leader and European parliamentarian Nigel Farage.
“Hello, buddy,” Bannon exclaims. “What really is our beef with the witnesses, if you disregard the national law?”
Kassam sits on the long side of the table, without a bagel. (He prefers raw onions for breakfast).
“There is nothing harmful about being involved in Ukraine,” says Kassam. “But the whole idea of allowing the EU expanding to the Russian border, and thinking Putin would accept it was stupid. Why should America and Europe pay for a war on the Russian border? It is as hopeless as the war in Afghanistan. It does not contribute to peace.”
An assistant counts down the seconds to start the program on the fingers of one hand. Five, four, three, two…
Bannon introduces: “Welcome to War Room: Impeachment on December 11th, the year of our Lord, 2019. We broadcast live from Capitol Hill… It’s a beautiful day…”
The night before, the Democrats announced that the party is thinking of impeaching Trump on two points.
A big, possibly redeeming step for the Democrats. Still, Trump’s support troops seem more egregious than liberal voters, say the radio hosts.
“All right, let’s go out and fight!” says Bannon in broadcast.
Raheem Kassam has just returned from a campaign meeting that Trump held the night before in Pennsylvania.
The president’s grassroots, Kassam reports, have really penetrated into the “fine print” of the impeachment.
Bannon raises his arms in the air: “UNITY AND SUBSTANCE!”
This report from the field is intended to confirm Bannon’s strategy to the nation. He started the radio show at the end of October when he saw Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat running the House of Representatives, about to attack Trump [with impeachment].
Republicans tried to shake off accusations by dismissing it a “witch-hunt” and undermining the witnesses as traitors, “despite the fact that all were persons hired by Donald J Trump,” as Bannon pointed out in an early section of the radio show.
Bannon’s attitude was that the Republicans and the White House had to go much further in their defense of the president and assert that Trump did exactly what he was elected to do.
Are Republicans afraid of Trump, or why are they so loyal?
“It’s a practical policy,” says Bannon. “People realize the House of Representatives is at stake [in the 2020 election]. This whole situation has allowed us to strengthen our majority in the Senate, win the White House again, but also reverse 18 swing states and thus take back the House.”
That explains the absolute consensus behind Trump.
When the 68th episode is recorded, we take a look back at Bannon as he sprints up to his private quarters upstairs. He takes the elegant black staircase to the front of the brick red three-story house. From his front door you can see the chalk-white back of the Supreme Court.
“You call yourself a populist. It was the taxpayers’ millions that Trump froze this summer. Is there no concern about a president who handles people’s money so uniquely?”
“I want more of it! Whether it is Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders who is the president, I want the executive to make sure the money is managed as well as possible. And the American people don’t like aid to begin with.”
Steve Bannon is hardly a wholly objective observer of the White House’s political rubbishing of the Democrats.
On the contrary. This business is one of Bannon’s specialties.
In 2012, Bannon founded an organization called the Government Accountability Institute, with money from billionaire and Trump financier Robert Mercer.
The business side was to spread information about political enemies in the hope that established media would report the findings. This was brilliant in the election campaign ahead of the 2016 presidential election, when the New York Times referred to the contents of the book “Clinton Cash” on the front page of the newspaper.
The book, which Bannon, among others, was behind, laid the foundation for the image of Hillary Clinton as a corrupt powerhouse prepared to sell out U.S. security interests. During the election campaign, Trump’s supporters screamed “Lock her up!” at the presidential campaign rallies.
In February 2018, prior to the start of the 2020 electoral campaign, the same author published a book about the Biden family’s business in Ukraine and China. It’s called “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends“. The campaign against Clinton would be repeated against Biden, who is leading the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“I am very proud of Peter and our work when I was chairman,” says Steve Bannon about the author, Peter Schweizer, who is the head of the Government Accountability Institute.
What did Joe Biden do wrong in Ukraine, in your opinion?
“He exported American crony capitalism into that mess where the American people have no interest in being.”
Five minutes has become twenty. A radio colleague steps into the porch. Bannon is returned to the war room and its crisis headquarters. Through the closed glass doors I see him tear the foil from his bagel and put his teeth into the fried egg.