Weekend Politics: Trump's Turbulent Week
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
President Trump's vacation is ending, and he may be relieved. It's been a rocky two weeks for the president, from the violence in Charlottesville and his widely criticized response to it to the exit of chief strategist Steve Bannon, who left the White House with a promise to wage war on those who disagree with his nationalist agenda. For more, I'm joined once again by Michael Warren. He's a senior staff writer at the conservative outlet the Weekly Standard. Thank you, and good morning.
MICHAEL WARREN: Good morning, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I saw a tweet last week asking if the president knows that he no longer has to fire a new person every week now that he's not the host of "The Apprentice." Sean Spicer, Anthony Scaramucci - all departed the White House in the last month - now Steve Bannon. What is your read on the firing?
WARREN: First of all, I think this seems to be coming from the new regime of John Kelly, the chief of staff.
WARREN: We had that interview last week - it feels like last week. I guess it was last week - with The American Prospect that Steve Bannon gave. He says he didn't know it was an interview or on the record, but it was out there. And he was out there criticizing his colleagues, criticizing people in the State Department, the Defense Department, saying he was going to get his own guys in there and actually undercutting the president's own sort of public position on North Korea, saying there is no military option - when the president had said that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm curious. In an interview with your colleague at the Weekly Standard, Bannon declared the presidency of Trump that he fought for as over. How do you read that? Is it over?
WARREN: (Laughter) I mean, is it the presidency that Trump fought for, or is it the presidency that Bannon was attaching himself to? And if that's the case, was it even - were there any, really, successes to it? This is, I think, a problem of Steve Bannon - is that he inflates his own importance to Trump and sort of suggests that his own agenda is the same as Trump's. In many ways, they are the same - economic nationalism, sort of what gave rise to Donald Trump. But there's another side to Donald Trump, which is the side that Steve Bannon hates, which is the sort of - you can call it globalist. You can call it - the New Yorkers are the ones who are always criticized in the White House by the Steve Bannon types.
WARREN: You know, I do think that the sort of economic nationalists are on their heels right now. They don't have anybody. They don't have anybody, really, who identifies with the broad conservative movement left in the White House or certainly the Republican Party, except for the vice president, Mike Pence.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Moving on, though. What do you think is the significance of the slow break from Trump by Senate and House Republicans? Many are criticizing him by name now. We saw Bob Corker - very harsh this week. Does that have some real significance?
WARREN: I think it does. It's been a slow burn throughout the last - what? - seven and a half, eight months of the of the Trump presidency. I think Charlottesville accelerated that. This is a moment when, I think, Republicans who were, for whatever reason, giving the president the benefit of the doubt, thinking, well, at least we can get some of our agenda items through - you have the failure of the Obamacare repeal. You have the sense that it's chaos within the White House. And then you have this real sense that this could be affecting, in 2018, the elections.
There are, I think, Republicans in the Senate - people like Bob Corker or whoever - who just simply reject the equivocation of Donald Trump. And it sort of offends them on a personal level. So all of that is sort of - now, I think, has been simmering maybe underneath the surface, to mix my metaphors. But now it's come up. And there's no sort of political - I should say there's less political upside to staying with President Trump. And there's more political upside, frankly, to distancing yourself from him, particularly as the 2018 elections heat up.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does he need to do to advance his agenda now that he has so few defenders in Congress? And he continues to criticize his own party.
WARREN: Well, I suppose there's a possibility he could find sort of a third way - right? - sort of break himself away from the Republican Party and just try to approach things from an independent, populist standpoint. There are some things on which he could possibly find, on the policy side, Democratic support. The problem is he just doesn't have any political support for that. There are - there was an opportunity at the beginning of the administration, I think, to do some sort of big infrastructure package. You could've peeled off Democrats like Joe Manchin or Joe Donnelly or Heidi Heitkamp. That's just impossible now. He's become so toxic not simply to Democrats but also to Republicans, as well. I just don't - I honestly don't see how it happens.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Michael Warren from the Weekly Standard. Thanks so much.
WARREN: Thanks, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.