Yesterday, after Steve Bannon accused Donald Trump and his son of participating in a “treasonous” plot with Russia against the United States, Trump tried to fire back in the toughest manner he could think of. Of course Trump isn’t particularly adept at thinking, so his plan consisted entirely of sending a cease and desist letter to Bannon, and then informing the media about the letter. It’s taken all of sixteen hours for that move to promptly blow up in Trump’s face.
Trump was almost certainly never going to sue Bannon, because a lawsuit would end up airing all of Trump’s dirty laundry. It was a bluff. Not only is Bannon calling the bluff today, he’s raising it. CNN just reported on-air that Bannon is considering suing Trump for defamation of character. There is a lot of disagreement among experts about who can sue a sitting President for what and under what circumstances, without a ton of precedent on the books. But because Trump is threatening to sue Bannon, it probably increases the odds of Bannon being able to pull off a preemptive countersuit against Trump. It’s even uglier than that though.
Even if no one sues anyone and these two men are just huffing and puffing at each other, Bannon just won their feud. Trump tried to use his wealth, his fancy lawyers, and his power as (supposed) President of the United States to scare Bannon into backing down. Bannon responded by signaling that he just doesn’t give a damn anymore.
Maybe that’s because Steve Bannon is sitting on enough evidence to send Donald Trump to prison, and he therefore knows Trump can’t really hurt him. Maybe Bannon is just so recklessly bent on revenge that he doesn’t care if he takes himself down by going after Trump. Either way, Bannon thinks he has nothing left to lose. He knows most or all of Trump’s secrets. Trump has a far bigger problem here than he thought.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report