Trump breaks with Bannon over his reported criticism of the president and his family

President Trump declared his former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon persona non grata on Wednesday, delivering a scorching rebuke to the man who had been Trump’s most visible partner in his efforts to redefine the Republican Party according to their populist and nationalist vision.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” Trump said in a caustic four-paragraph statement released by the White House. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Trump rarely dispatches his advisors entirely, whether he fires them or they are disgraced. Bannon had tested that in recent months, however, with reported comments mocking Trump and his children and casting himself as a master strategist and political theorist.

The president’s public denunciation of Bannon came only after a report early Wednesday, based on excerpts from a forthcoming book, that quoted Bannon condemning as “treasonous” a June 2016 meeting in which Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, met with Kremlin-linked Russians to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

The June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower occurred before Bannon joined the campaign. He didn’t object entirely to the meeting taking place, he reportedly recounted in the book, but said it should have been handled by lawyers and held far from Trump Tower. Any dirt on Clinton should have been passed, he said, “to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication.”

Attorneys for Trump Jr. and Kushner did not respond to emails requesting comment. An attorney for Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time of the meeting who also attended, declined to comment.

Bannon’s denigration of Trump and his family represents yet another unusual twist to the Trump presidency.

Though other presidents’ aides have, on occasions, written tell-all books or given indiscreet interviews, they have rarely done it with such gusto and abandon. A profile in Vanity Fair last month reported that Bannon had told a friend that Trump was “like an 11-year-old child,” and that he recalled allegations in a dropped lawsuit that Trump had raped a California teenager.

“Bannon has his own platform, unlike most chiefs of staff or advisors who seek to be part of conventional politics,” said Henry Olsen, a conservative author.

Olsen, however, argues that Bannon’s role in the populist movement has been overstated.

“Bannon,” he said, “assumed a public persona because, in a world of reporting that focuses on personalities, he was one of the few personalities who could be ascribed to be Trump-like.”

Times staff writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.

Trump disbands voter fraud commission

Donald Trump and Kris Kobach are pictured. | Getty Images

President Donald Trump waves after speaking alongside Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on July 19, 2017. On Tuesday, Trump disbanded the commission. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is dissolving a controversial commission that was charged with investigating his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud during the 2016 election, the White House said Wednesday.

Trump asked the Department of Homeland Security to look into the issue instead.

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“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” a White House statement said. “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission.”

Trump dissolves voter fraud commission

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE on Wednesday dissolved a controversial commission that was set up to investigate his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election.

The White House said Trump decided to disband the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity because several states failed to hand over voter information.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that “rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense,” Trump signed an executive order abolishing the panel and turning the matter over to the Department of Homeland Security.

The order brought an abrupt end to a highly touted commission that Trump created last May.


It was established months after Trump claimed, without citing evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, depriving him of a popular-vote victory against Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE.

Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a vocal supporter of voter ID laws, led the commission. It was made up of Republicans and Democrats.

The panel met twice, but was quickly bogged down amid states’ unwillingness to comply with its requests and lawsuits alleging it did not follow federal record-keeping laws.

The Government Accountabiity Office announced last October it was opening an investigation into the commission at the request of three Democratic senators who said the panel did not properly disclose its work.

Democrats and civil-rights groups described the commission as part of a broader conservative effort to deprive minorities of voting rights and a cover to back up the president’s claims.

“The claim of widespread voter fraud in the United States is in fact, fraud. The demise of this commission should put this issue to rest,” Michael Waldman, president of the liberal Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmerica isn’t ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left’s pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (D-N.Y.) celebrated the panel’s end, calling it a “front to suppress the vote, perpetrate dangerous and baseless claims” that “was ridiculed from one end of the country to the other.”

Some leading Republicans, including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: ‘I worry about both sides’ of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges ‘entitlement reform’ next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (Wis.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-S.C.), also urged Trump last year to drop his claims of widespread fraud.

The announcement of the panel’s demise capped off a chaotic news day at the White House, which scrambled to push back against former chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s explosive criticism of the president and his family in a new book.

It also came roughly 24 hours after Trump challenged North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Twitter over the size of his “nuclear button,” a comment that sparked new fears of a deadly conflict with Pyongyang.

Updated 7:40 p.m.

Conservative media stands by Trump over Bannon

Steve Bannon is pictured. | Getty Images

Many Breitbart commenters weighed in on the side of President Donald Trump, despite Steve Bannon’s position as executive chairman of the site. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Right-wing outlets focus on president’s rejection of his one-time aide, not on Bannon’s critique of the administration.

In round one of Trump vs. Bannon on conservative media, the president is pummeling his former advisor.

From Fox News to the Drudge Report, all the way down the spectrum to far-right conspiracy sites like The Gateway Pundit and InfoWars, headlines Wednesday afternoon painted former presidential adviser Steve Bannon as unstable and self-interested, and President Donald Trump as a forceful defender of his family and administration.

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The lead headline on Fox News’ website quoted the president’s incendiary response to Bannon’s criticisms, reading, “’HE LOST HIS MIND’: Trump unloads on Bannon after ex-adviser’s bombshell criticism appears in book excerpts.”

And the first sentence of the story linked to the headline sneered, “It’s probably safe to say the self-professed mastermind behind President Trump’s election won’t be back in 2020.”

At Drudge Report, editor Matt Drudge, who has had an on-again, off-again feud with Bannon, featured an unflattering picture of Bannon and blared, “TRUMP DOWNLOADS ON ‘PRETENDER’ BANNON.”

And The Daily Caller declared, “Trump Puts Bannon In A Body Bag.”

Charlie Sykes, the longtime conservative radio host and MSNBC contributor, said in an email that he was not surprised to see conservative media outlets favoring the president over Bannon.

“The right media’s loyalty has always been to Trump, not Bannon or his ideas,” he said. “In retrospect, it’s interesting how tone deaf Bannon was. He helped create a pro-Trump media ecosystem that demanded loyalty, not ideological consistency. Now that he is perceived as disloyal (and perhaps dangerous), he is going to get the same treatment he used to give the globalist, establishment types.”

The Daily Caller’s editor in chief, Geoffrey Ingersoll, said in an email that “there was no conscious decision” to favor Trump, “although a few of us did say it seemed like sour grapes from Bannon.”

Headlines aside, he noted that story copy read straight, also saying that the site’s first headline on the story—before Trump’s response—did not tip either way: “Bannon: Trump Tower Meeting With Russians Was ‘Treasonous.’”

One notable exception to headlines favoring Trump was at Bannon’s site, Breitbart, which has featured straight-forward coverage. The lead headline on the site read “TRUMP FURIOUS” and featured a picture of Bannon. It did also quote, though, Trump’s assertion that his former advisor had “lost his mind.”

But many Breitbart commenters weighed in on the side of Trump, leading to a gleeful InfoWars story declaring, “ readers have overwhelmingly sided with Donald Trump over his war of words with former White House senior counselor Steve Bannon.”

Given that Breitbart’s lead story has more than 20,000 comments, it’s unclear how InfoWars divined a consensus, but there’s no doubt that, since Trump’s rise, conservative news outlets have found value in favoring him.

An MIT and Harvard study of the conservative news ecosystem during the 2016 GOP primary found that when Fox News’s website was more critical of Trump, the site’s influence decreased while that of the ardently pro-Trump Breitbart rose, making it the most shared-from conservative digital media site during the campaign.

In that early phase, fewer readers shared Fox stories on Facebook and Twitter and they were linked fewer places. But Fox News rebounded during the general election, when it swung behind Trump.

Then, the study found, the site’s shares and links increased again.

“I can’t help thinking of Bannon as the Robespierre of this Trumpian revolution,” Sykes said, “ultimately devoured by the forces he helped release.”

Utah man charged with threatening to assassinate Trump

Donald Trump is pictured. | AP Photo

During his December trip to Utah, President Donald Trump announced that he was removing 2 million acres of protected territory from two national monuments in the state. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

A man in Utah has been indicted on charges of threatening to kill President Donald Trump during his visit to the state last month.

Travis Luke Dominguez, 33, of Midvale, Utah, was charged in an 11-count indictment that included two counts of threatening the life of the president on Dec. 4, according to a statement by the U.S. attorney’s office.

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Dominguez also faces five counts of “maliciously conveying false information” regarding attempts to “kill, injure, and intimidate individuals” at several areas in the state, among other charges.

Beyond the president, his targets included local police officers, moviegoers at a theater complex in South Jordan, Utah, other regional businesses.

“The threats generally involved an active shooter situation or the use of explosives,” the U.S. attorney’s office added.

The indictment was filed in District Court in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

In communications obtained by authorities, the individual vowed to “kill the sexist racist homophobic President Trump,” according to the indictment.

During his December trip to Utah, the president announced that he was removing 2 million acres of protected territory from two national monuments in the state, a move considered a victory for Republican lawmakers there that set off a series of protests from environmental activists.