Former Bush and Reagan operative Elliott Abrams told a Politico correspondent on Monday that President Donald Trump should fire top strategist Steve Bannon.
“He’s not a good influence on the president,” Abrams said, adding that having a “political strategist” among those with a permanent seat on the National Security Council was “a terrible mistake.”
Abrams was being considered to be Deputy Secretary of State under Rex Tillerson but was not chosen — something Abrams first blamed on President Donald Trump’s “thin skin” after the president learned details about Abrams’ criticism of him during the campaign, CNN reported in early February.
“The President found out about Abrams’ outspokenness against Trump after meeting with him on Tuesday to consider him for the position, which would have made him Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s deputy,” CNN reported.”The meeting went well, but Trump could not get past Abrams’ past criticism, the sources said.”
“Another Republican source with knowledge of what happened said Abrams would not get the job because of ‘Donald Trump’s thin skin and nothing else,’” CNN reported.
In May of 2016, Abrams wrote in the Weekly Standard:
Republicans who oppose Trump need to keep making the arguments that candidates like Rubio and Cruz and Bush made this year unsuccessfully. It didn’t work this time but it can work next time, when voters see Trump collapse—and when they see an increasingly dangerous world and a Clinton administration wedded to a bloated federal government as the solution to every problem. Next time, in 2020, we’ll have had 12 years of Obama and Clinton, Hillary will be in her mid-seventies, Trump will be gone, and a new generation of Republican leaders like Rubio and Cruz and Ryan and Cotton and Haley and Sasse will still be in their forties.
But just days after the CNN report, Abrams blamed Bannon for his lost opportunity.
“The only person on the White House staff that I know was opposed to my being hired was Steve Bannon, so that’s my guess,” Abrams told CNN’s Erin Burnett in a Feb. 14 interview. “It’s a guess.”
But Abrams had other critics. In a Breitbart News exclusive also published in February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he would oppose Abrams’ nomination to the State Department post.
“In a country of 300 million people, surely there are reasonable foreign policy experts who have not been convicted of deceiving Congress and actually share the President’s foreign policy views,” Paul wrote in an excerpt of the op-ed that was published in Rare and obtained by Breitbart News ahead of its release.
“Tillerson tried to convince Trump to make Abrams his deputy despite the criticism because he felt he needed his foreign policy experience, according to multiple sources,” CNN reported back in February. “White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Jared Kushner also strongly supported Abrams and urged Trump to reconsider, the sources said.”
In Monday’s Politico piece the correspondent refers to the “West Wing ideological war” and Abram’s “delight” that some in the White House are “picking sides against Bannon.”
“Having served in the George W. Bush administration and under Ronald Reagan before that, Abrams probably would have been waging those internal battles himself had Trump not overruled Tillerson at Bannon’s behest,” Politico reported.
Bannon has said his stepping away from the permanent seat on the NSC was planned to take place when his work on the council was complete.
“Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration,” Bannon said in a statement. “I was put on to ensure that it was de-operationalized.”
“General [H.R.] McMaster has returned the NSC to its proper function,” Bannon said, referring to Trump’s National Security Adviser.
“As for his own future with Trump, Abrams teased that it may still be in front of him, depending on how things shape up with Bannon and Kushner, the latter of whom he kept going out of his way to praise,” Politico reported.
The Politico correspondent also added some color to his description of Abrams when he spoke about Bannon.
“A giant smile spreads across his face at the thought of Bannon being forced out of the White House completely,” the Politico correspondent wrote.