Donald Trump sounds sick of Steve Bannon

Story highlights

  • No one can get bigger than Donald Trump
  • Are Steve Bannon's days in the White House numbered?

Washington (CNN)White House chief strategist Steve Bannon appears to be fighting for his political life following stunningly lukewarm comments about him from President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

"I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late," Trump told New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin. "I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve. I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary."
Then, just in case anyone missed the point (they didn't), Trump added: "Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will."
    Whoa.
    Comments like that at any time would be major news and a major cause of concern for Bannon. Coming as they do on the heels of a very public fight between Bannon and Jared Kushner, another top Trump adviser and the president's son-in-law, suggest that the chief executive has totally lost his tolerance for Bannon.
    It's been a remarkable arc for Bannon and Trump. The former head of Breitbart News joined Trump's presidential campaign as chief strategist in August 2016 amid a campaign shakeup that also installed Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager. He quickly rose to prominence, the strategist widely credited with putting skin and muscle on the bare bones of Trump's "America First" worldview.
    Bannon's rise continued once Trump won and he was installed as one of four top advisers in the White House. And, in the early days of the Trump administration, Bannon seemed ascendant. He -- along with deputy Stephen Miller -- were the guiding lights behind Trump's travel ban. Bannon's fingerprints could be seen in almost every Trump public pronouncement -- particularly when it came to his savaging of the media.
    In an appearance in late February at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Bannon cast the Trump presidency as a nonstop fight for the "deconstruction of the administrative state." He appeared to be the architect of that deconstruction -- with a direct line to the President.
    It was right around that time that Bannon got a little too big for Trump's liking. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine -- a close-up of the brooding Bannon -- with the headline "The Great Manipulator." "Saturday Night Live" did a skit in which Bannon was portrayed as both the Grim Reaper and the shadow president.
    One of the most important truisms of the Trump presidency is that no one gets bigger than the boss. It's Donald Trump and the Trumpettes, not Donald Trump with Steve Bannon. Donald Trump shares top billing with absolutely no one.
    You can hear Trump's annoyance with Bannon's growing profile in the quotes to Goodwin. Trump notes that Bannon got involved in the race long after he had secured the Republican nomination, adding: "I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary."
    The message? The reason I won is because of me, not Steve Bannon. I developed the strategy. I executed it. No one else. This is my victory. My presidency.
    Trump's comments are an unmistakable and purposeful shot across the bow of Bannon. Get in line or get out, Trump is not so subtly telling Bannon. Now the ball's in Bannon's court.