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August 20, 2017
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Ousted White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon expressed little optimism for a united, productive GOP in the near future while speaking to The Washington Post for an article published Saturday evening.

"If the Republican Party on Capitol Hill gets behind the president on his plans and not theirs, it will all be sweetness and light, be one big happy family," Bannon told the Post, adding that this is not an outcome he expects in the foreseeable future, because no "administration in history has been so divided among itself about the direction about where it should go."

That assessment contributed to the Post's conclusion that Bannon's exit to resume his erstwhile position at Breitbart News will not end the Trump White House's internal division and apparently endless controversy. (Read The Week's Ryan Cooper on why Bannon's departure won't change much here.)

"I think it raises the morale of staffers and brings more of a sense of normalcy to the White House on a day-to-day basis," said an unnamed Republican strategist with access to the administration. "What it does not do is remove the person who's creating the most drama in the White House, and that's Donald Trump."

What Bannon will do at Breitbart remains to be seen. Some of his post-firing remarks and comments from those near him suggest he will use the outlet to attack the Trump administration, or at least figures within it who oppose his "economic nationalist" agenda. However, Bannon himself told Bloomberg News he is "going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America." Bonnie Kristian

August 17, 2017

Once-and-future action hero and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) may not be the best person to convince President Trump about the merits of unequivocally condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists, given their history and especially when he uses a Trump bobble-head, but he gave it a try anyway on Thursday night. "The only way to beat the loud and angry voices of hate is to meet them with louder and more reasonable voices," he said in a video for ATTN, and that includes Trump, who, "as president of this great country," has "a moral responsibility to send an unequivocal that you won't stand for hate and racism." In case Trump was unsure what such a statement would sound like, Schwarzenegger offered him a Republican-specific template.

More interesting was his "blunt" message to "the neo-Nazis and to the white supremacists and to the neo-Confederates," which began: "Your heroes are losers. You are supporting a lost cause. Believe me, I knew the original Nazis." He explained that he was born in Austria in 1947, right after World War II, and growing up he "was surrounded by broken men, men who came home from the war filled with shrapnel and guilt, men who were misled into a losing ideology. And I can tell you that these ghosts that you idolize spent the rest of their lives living in shame. And right now, they're resting in hell." He said it isn't too late to change course, and he wasn't buying Trump's "fine people" excuse for the Charlottesville marchers.

"If you say 'Arnold, hey, I was just at the march, don't call me a Nazi, I have nothing to do with Nazis at all,'" Schwarzenegger said, "let me help you: Don't hang around people who carry Nazi flags, give Nazi salutes, or shout Nazi slogans. Go home. Or better yet, tell them they are wrong to celebrate an ideology that murdered millions of people. And then go home." Schwarzenegger also had some advice for people who are not Nazis or Nazi sympathizers and think it's best to stay quiet or keep their heads down, and he only used one of his famous movie catchphrases. Peter Weber

August 17, 2017

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) said President Trump "has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation" in grave comments delivered at the Rotary Club of Chattanooga on Thursday. "The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to ... in order to be successful. And we need for him to be successful," Corker said.

The senator pointedly added that Trump does not appear to understand "what has made this nation great and what it is today."

The remarks followed a number of tweets from Trump on Thursday, some of which bashed Republican senators and others that defended Confederate monuments. Many reporters and analysts consider Corker to be something of a bellwether on Trump:

"We're at a point where there needs to be radical changes that take place at the White House itself," Corker said. "It has to happen." Watch his full comments below. Jeva Lange

August 17, 2017
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On Wednesday, endangered chief strategist Stephen Bannon gave two eyebrow-raising interviews, although at least one he has since argued was intended to be "off the record." The other, with The New York Times, saw Bannon defending Trump on Charlottesville and arguing that the left has picked the wrong fight.

"President Trump, by asking, 'Where does this all end' — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln — connects with the American people about their history, culture, and traditions," Bannon told the Times. "The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it's all racist."

For good measure, Bannon added: "Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can't get enough of it."

One person was killed and more than a dozen others injured when a Charlottesville protester rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters on Saturday. Critics of Trump's response to Charlottesville are also quick to point out that the president has apparently equivocated white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members with counter-protesters on the left.

As Politico observes: "Bannon is an incredibly savvy political operator who talks to reporters all the time, and did these interviews for some reason ... Whatever his motivation was, he felt like he should dial up some reporters and get his take out there." Jeva Lange

August 16, 2017
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The latest Stephen Bannon interview comes from a surprising source: The American Prospect, a progressive publication.

Bannon associates told CNN and Axios that the White House chief strategist did not know his conversation with magazine co-founder Robert Kuttner would be turned into an article, published Wednesday, and that he had called to chat with Kuttner because he liked his stance on China in a recent story. Kuttner said media-savvy Bannon — who was a topic of conversation during former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci's phone call with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, which led to his firing — never asked for the conversation to be off the record.

Bannon told Kuttner there is "no military solution" to North Korea and its nuclear threats, said the "economic war with China is everything" and the U.S. must be "maniacally focused on that," and called white nationalists "losers," "a fringe element," and "a collection of clowns." He also made it sound like he has final say in staffing ("I'm changing out people at East Asian Defense; I'm getting hawks in") and discussed his fights with colleagues ("There's Treasury and [National Economic Council Chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying").

Axios' Jonathan Swan spoke with some of Bannon's associates, including one described as being "not an enemy of his," who all saw this as a terrible move by Bannon. That person told Swan, after reading the article, "Since Steve apparently enjoys casually undermining U.S. national security, I'll put this in terms he'll understand: This is DEFCON 1-level bad." You can read more about Kuttner's conversation with Bannon at The American Prospect. Catherine Garcia

August 16, 2017

It was inevitable that President Trump would face more questions about last weekend's violent "Unite the Right" march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his belated condemnation on Monday of the neo-Nazi, white supremacists, and KKK members who led it. But "it did not seem inevitable, says Phillip Bump at The Washington Post, "that Trump's responses to questions about those protests would cement as correct the general interpretation of his first comments on the matter: He's sympathetic to the goals of the men who marched Saturday night carrying Confederate and Nazi flags — and even to the 'peaceful' torchlight protest on Friday in which marchers chanted anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans."

That was certainly the interpretation "alt-right" and white nationalist leaders took away from Trump's remarks at his press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Trump Tower. But it was also essentially what Trump's staff thought, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman report at The New York Times:

No word in the Trump lexicon is as tread-worn as "unprecedented." But members of the president's staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private. ... No sooner had he delivered the Monday statement than he began railing privately to his staff about the news media. He fumed to aides about how unfairly he was being treated, and expressed sympathy with nonviolent protesters who he said were defending their "heritage," according to a West Wing official. [The New York Times]

Trump had been pressed to unequivocally condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists on Monday by his new chief of staff, John Kelly, and daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner urged him to moderate his stance, Thrush and Haberman report, though "as with so many other critical moments in Mr. Trump's presidency, the two were on vacation, this time in Vermont." Kelly was not on vacation, and if you want to know what it was like for Trump's "stunned and disheartened" staff to hear Trump's remarks Tuesday, NBC News has a close-up of Kelly.

You can read more about Trump's decision to go lay it all out there at The New York Times. Peter Weber

August 15, 2017
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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tweeted Tuesday afternoon, not long after President Trump blamed "both sides" for the violence that broke out over the weekend at a white supremacist rally in Virginia, that it must be made clear that "white supremacy is repulsive."

Ryan said such "bigotry is counter to all this country stands for," and "there can be no moral ambiguity." Many of the responses Ryan received came from people calling him out for supporting Trump and his agenda, and asking when he is going to start impeachment proceedings. Catherine Garcia

August 12, 2017

President Trump came under fire Saturday afternoon for being too vague in his comments about the lethal violence against anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia:

But other politicians — from both sides of the aisle — got a lot more specific in their condemnation of the white nationalists' message, associations, and methods. See a selection of their statements below. Bonnie Kristian

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