WASHINGTON – The Trump administration’s official spokesman has confirmed what WND has consistently reported: Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon is staying.
Asked by CNN’s Jeff Zeleny if the president was “sticking with Steve Bannon,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded positively.
“[President Trump] is very confident in the team that he has, that they have an unbelievable amount of knowledge, and he believes the counsel that they all bring to the table,” Spicer said.
On Thursday, Bannon told WND it was a “total lie” that he had threatened to quit.
Bannon was asked specifically to respond to a report by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough that he told his colleagues, “If my talents aren’t needed here, I can take them somewhere else.”
Politico had also reported that Bannon was threatening to resign over a clash with President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has taken on an increasingly significant role in the White House and has the title of senior adviser to the president. Politico said Bannon was concerned that Kushner is trying to undermine Trump’s populist approach.
Throughout Monday’s daily White House press briefing, Spicer repeatedly downplayed sensational media reports about volatile clashes between Bannon and Kushner, calling the accounts “overblown.”
He did not deny there had been some disagreement over policy, but he said that was to be expected, telling Zeleny, “[T]he reason the president has brought this team together is all for a diverse set of opinions.
“He doesn’t want a monolithical kind of thought process going through the White House. He wants a diverse set of opinions. He is the decider. He has people come in and give him a variety of options and plans.”
Spicer explained that the president’s decision to authorize the airstrikes on Libya was the result of listening to competing opinions over 72 hours.
“And so whether it’s this, health care, tax reform, trade, he’s got a divergent set of opinions here of experts,” the spokesman explained.
“The idea isn’t to have one set of thought and policy flowing through. It’s to give the president the best advice as possible, but once the president makes a decision, the team is on board 100 percent to make sure that we do what’s in the best interest of the country and fulfill the agenda he’s laid out.”
Zeleny said the clash between Bannon and Kushner must have “crossed a line” if the president reportedly told them to work it out at a meeting Friday.
After noting “there is always going to be a healthy debate internally on a variety of policy issues,” Spicer contended, “There was a lot of overblown coverage of how it actually happened and what went down.”
The press secretary made similar points to an earlier question from Major Garrett of CBS, who asked if such a diverse group of senior advisers could work as a team.
Spicer said the president “understands that we have some pretty smart, talented individuals who are opinionated on a lot of subjects, but that our battles and our policy differences need to be behind closed doors; we need to focus, and ultimately all come out committed to advancing the president’s agenda.”
The spokesman said President Trump has “made sure that the focus stays on advancing the agenda.”
The intense speculation on whether Bannon would leave the administration began after the establishment media reported he was “booted” from the National Security Council.
Headlines called it a demotion, while the White House insisted it was simply a matter of Bannon no longer being on a list of regular attendees of NSC “principals committee” meetings.
The White House said Bannon rarely, if ever, attended those meetings, and he still may attend them if he wishes. Bannon still has his security clearance.
“Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration. I was put on to ensure that it was de-operationalized,” Bannon said in a statement Wednesday to the Wall Street Journal.
Bannon originally served on the committee as a check against Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn before Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a top White House official told NBC News. However, Bannon believed he was no longer needed in that role after the selection of H.R. McMaster as national security adviser.
McMaster was given authority to reorganize the committee when he joined the White House, according to NBC.
A senior White House official told NBC there is no power struggle. The official said the White House was bringing back more of a George W. Bush-era-type NSC. The council will be more streamlined and the decision-making more deliberative, the official said.