Niall Stanage and Scott Wong at The Hill write about the panic among the Washington establishment over Republican nominee Donald Trump’s decision to tap Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon as his new campaign CEO.
Donald Trump’s campaign shake-up is being seen on Capitol Hill as yet another shot across the bows of the GOP establishment.
The changes in effect demote Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman who had been urging Trump to show more restraint, and promote pollster Kellyanne Conway to the position of campaign manager.
But the real bombshell came with the recruitment of Steve Bannon, an executive with the conservative news organization Breitbart, as the campaign’s CEO.
Breitbart has been synonymous with attacks on the GOP leadership, especially in recent weeks and months. A particular foe: Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
The site has also suggested that Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is insufficiently rock-ribbed when it comes to standing up to Democrats.
That coverage, together with Breitbart’s broader reputation for inflammatory journalism, is causing consternation on Capitol Hill.
That isn’t likely to bother Bannon much — a Bloomberg Businessweek profile 10 months ago referred to his cooption of the phrase “Honey badger don’t give a s**t” as the Breitbart motto.
But Capitol Hill Republicans already disheartened by Trump’s scorched-earth campaign were apoplectic over the Wednesday morning shake-up.
“Breitbart has no credibility outside of the most extreme conservative wing of our party. Frankly, the same could be said of Kellyanne Conway,” one House member and close Ryan ally who has publicly endorsed Trump said in a text-message tirade.
“This would seem to signal that Trump is ready to go double-barrel against all of Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike,” the GOP lawmaker continued. “Breitbart takes a flamethrower to Washington and plays very loose with the facts. I would anticipate an even more bellicose, even less-connected-to-the-facts approach from the Trump campaign moving forward.”
Other sources who spoke with The Hill were much more complimentary of Conway — but, for the most part, just as scathing of Bannon and Breitbart.
Still, Bannon does have some backers on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), the little-known economic professor who upset then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 GOP primary race, recently appeared on Bannon’s radio show in New York to promote his new book, “American Underdog.”
“Steve Bannon certainly will be great at reflecting the populist issues that have shaken the political world for the past couple years,” Brat told The Hill on Wednesday.
“He has his finger on the pulse of the American people and so I am sure he will make these issues … front and center in this campaign, including the war on ISIS, immigration-related issues, crony trade deals, and using all the levers of American power to ensure that we put the American people first.”
When asked if the Speaker had any issue with a Breitbart executive leading Trump’s campaign, Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck declined to comment.
But Buck raised eyebrows by sending a tweet on Wednesday saying, “Free idea: Election Day on September 8th instead of November 8th.”
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