Robert Draper profiles the Trump White House in New York Times Magazine — revealing a 2013 anecdote where then-Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon tried to recruit then-Sen. Jeff Sessions to run for president.
From the New York Times:
One evening in January 2013, two guests showed up for dinner at the Capitol Hill townhouse that Bannon liked to call the Breitbart Embassy. One was the man Bannon would later describe to me as his “mentor”: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. The other was Sessions’s top aide and protégé, a jittery 27-year-old named Stephen Miller.
Two months earlier, Obama decisively defeated Mitt Romney in the presidential election, prompting Priebus, then the chairman of the Republican National Committee, to commission an analysis of the state of the party and its future, known colloquially in Washington as the “autopsy,” which would be delivered that spring. The only certainty was that the report would urge Republicans to court the growing Latino electorate — which had voted for Obama by a 44-point margin that November — by championing comprehensive immigration reform. The three men at the dinner table that night were among the few Republicans in town who thoroughly rejected that conclusion.
Sessions shared Bannon’s belief that the Republican Party needed to emphasize immigration reduction, border security and the preservation of working-class jobs through trade policy rather than courting Latino voters with a bill he regarded as “amnesty.” As Sessions would write in a memorandum to his Republican colleagues six months later, “This humble and honest populism — in contrast to the administration’s cheap demagoguery — would open the ears of millions who have turned away from our party.”
At some point during the five-hour dinner, Bannon recalls blurting out to Sessions, “We have to run you for president.” Just two years earlier, in 2011, he made a similar pitch to Sarah Palin, after completing a documentary about her called “The Undefeated.” Palin demurred. She was enjoying her life of celebrity and wealth, she had done little to immerse herself in policy minutiae and she was no doubt unsettled by Bannon’s warning that she stood little chance of defeating Obama.
Now he delivered a similar message to Sessions. “Look, you’re not going to win,” he recalls saying. “But you can get the Republican nomination. And once you control the apparatus, you can make fundamental changes. Trade is No.100 on the party’s list. You can make it No.1. Immigration is No.10. We can make it No.2.” Acknowledging that the drawling Alabama senator lacked Palin’s charisma, Bannon said, “You’ll be the anti-candidate.” But Sessions told Bannon he did not see himself running for president. “It was pretty obvious by the end of the night,” Bannon recalled, “that another candidate would have to do it.”
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