Steve Bannon has begun actively seeking revenge, and Donald Trump can’t stop him

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On the day he was fired, Steve Bannon played the media by giving two conflicting interviews to two different journalists. He told a mainstream media outlet that he was going to war for Trump, ensuring that cable news repeated it, so Trump would hear it and decide to play nice. But Bannon simultaneously told a conservative news outlet that the Trump presidency was over, thus ensuring that his own base got the message. And today Bannon began actively seeking his revenge.

By signaling to Trump through the mainstream media that he was on Trump’s side, Bannon managed to lure Trump into publicly praising him and Breitbart on Twitter yesterday. But today Bannon’s Breitbart launched a viciously hyperbolic attack on National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, essentially accusing him of being a terrorist sympathizer. It’s not shocking to see Bannon go after McMaster first, as he’s looking to settle the feud that had been brewing between the two of them within the White House for weeks. Anyone who’s been paying attention these past few days will have seen this attack coming. But if you’re Trump and you’re only watching cable news, you were probably caught off guard by it today.

And so now Trump can only sit back and watch as Breitbart, a site he just publicly and loudly endorsed, begins trying to pick off his top remaining advisers one by one. The kicker is that even if Trump wants to defend people like McMaster against the Breitbart attacks, he’ll be afraid to speak up, for fear Bannon will retaliate by aiming the Breitbart attacks directly at Trump himself.

Steve Bannon has a number of things to gain by attacking Donald Trump’s top people. It gives him a shot at personal revenge against the advisers who forced him out. It allows him to use the threat of editorial attacks to force Trump toward Bannon’s political positions. And it allows Bannon to turn a profit from all of the above. If Bannon ends up destroying Trump along the way, then so be it. And whatever Bannon’s true endgame may be, Trump knows there isn’t a thing he can do to stop it.

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