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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Steve Bannon Is Out Of The White House; Steve Bannon Fired From WH, Back At Breitbart News; Bannon: "There's About To Be A Jailbreak On The Hill"; Interview with Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 18, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OutFront next, breaking news, Steve Bannon fired. Already making stunning headlines saying, quote, the Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over. He's back at Breitbart tonight.
Is he declaring war? And is Bannon's firing just the beginning? A source says Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly is not done.
And Democrats want to censure the president for his Charlottesville comments. The effort gaining steam tonight. I'll talk to the man leading the charge.
Let's go OutFront.
Good evening everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, breaking news. Not done yet. Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon fired. And now, there's word that more heads may roll.
Source close to the -- close to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly tell CNN is-- tell CNN that Kelly is, quote, not done. But Bannon may not be done either.
Moments ago, Breitbart's banner headline said this, "Populist Hero Steve K. Bannon Returns Home to Breitbart." Breitbart is reporting Bannon chaired the staff's editorial meeting already tonight.
This comes after a senior Breitbart News editor tweeted one word, war, after Bannon got the ax. Bannon claiming he's going to war of the president but make no mistake. This is a man who calls Breitbart his, quote, killing machine.
One source close to Bannon saying this, "It will be Bannon the barbarian. He's not going to go out peacefully."
And, we're seeing evidence of that already. Moments ago, Bannon told the conservative Weekly Standard this, "The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over."
And he also throws out this one, "I feel jacked up. Now I'm free. I've got my hands back on my weapons. I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There's no doubt.
I built a blanking machine at Breitbart. And now I'm about to go back knowing what I know, and we're about to rev that machine up."
Bannon, the man who's been called the brains behind the president, one of the architects of Trump's America first message, a man who's been blamed for Trump's coziness with the alt-right is also been on the ropes for months. Bannon helped -- he helps get Trump elected and the president tonight at least publically is turning his back on him.
This photo, taken in the Oval Office shortly after the inauguration is pretty telling. Surrounding Trump and the vice president, Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon. Trump's original inner circle, all except -- all of them except Pence of course gone in less than seven months.
So, what does Bannon's ouster really mean? Will it make a real difference in this chaotic White House? Or was it done as a distraction from one of the president's worst weeks in office? An attempt to turn the situation away from Trump's widely criticized remarks about Charlottesville.
We will get to all of that. But first, Joe Johns is OutFront tonight at the White House. So, Joe, is the staff bracing for more firings tonight?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The staff is uncertain about what's going to happen here at the White House. And as you know, Kate, there has been quite a bit of uncertainty that John Kelly, the chief of staff has tried to relay. At the same time in the confusion as well as put in a chain of command.
So there is a possibility, we're hearing, through channels that, yes, there could be more firings, more people on their way out. There is another question, too. Some of that reporting tonight, my colleague Gloria Borger indicating that there were three power centers when Donald Trump came here to the White House. That was among others Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus who is gone now and of course the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Now, does Jared Kushner have a direct line to personnel decisions here and what does that mean for the White House? Conservatives love to say, for example, that personnel is policy. So if he is helping to choose the personnel, what will be the policy?
We know also that Jared Kushner, according to Gloria's reporting, has helped bring in a number of individuals, important individuals, including the national security advisor, H.R. McMaster.
So what's next here at the White House? Anybody's guess. Of course, there are questions already tonight about Sebastian Gorka, one of the president's key aides. My colleague indicating today, Jim Acosta, that he's on thin ice as well.
BOLDUAN: One thing that Trump and Bannon both love, to leave people guessing. And that is what's happening a lot tonight. Great to see you, Joe. Thank you so much.
OutFront tonight, David Gergen, he served as advisor to four presidents. Shannon Pettypiece, she's White House reporter for Bloomberg News, and Josh Greene, author of "The Devil's Bargain", a new book about the inside story of the partnership between, none other than, Steven Bannon and Donald Trump. Josh is also national correspondent for Bloomberg Business Week. Great to see all of you.
[19:05:03] Josh, slow day. You just spoke with Bannon. He told you he was leaving the White House to go to war for Trump against the president's opponents. Do you believe him?
JOSH GREEN, AUTHOR, "THE DEVIL'S BARGAIN": I do. Bannon did not sound like someone despondent or angry that he's just been fired. He sounded like a little kid in an amusement park who's about to get on a roller coaster ride and very excited about it.
BOLDUAN: He was excited.
GREEN: He was excited. I mean, he sounded like he had about 40 red bulls which is often (INAUDIBLE). But he said he was going to war for Trump, not against him. And he was specifically going to war against Trump's enemies on Capitol Hill, in the corporate media and he specified CNN, and in the business world. And Bannon has been critical internally of the business leaders who have abandon Trump's business council.
So, he's returning to Breitbart News, he's going back to the role that he played before he joined the Trump campaign of pushing this nationalist, populist agenda from the outside. He views that as helping Trump, not hurting Trump and he's going to go after some of Trump's critics.
BOLDUAN: Is Bannon dangerous? Let's see, 40 red bulls? That's dangerous for anybody. I just can't say.
But also, just according to the Washington Post, your book was actually one of the reasons that Trump was upset. That one of the reasons that led to this, particularly the cover photo of Bannon and also how Bannon has talked about as being kind of the big thinker or the operator in the operation.
Did you ever hear from the White House?
GREEN: I have spoken to people in the White House throughout the reporting process for the book after it was published and both of those things ring true. I was told by somebody that Trump probably isn't going to read your book, but he's going to look at the cover, and he's going to be very upset.
Not only that Bannon's is on the cover too but that Bannon's name comes before Trump's name in the subtitle. That is going to get him very upset.
The other thing we know about Trump is that he has a large ego, he doesn't like to share credit and have (INAUDIBLE). And he was clearly bothered by my contention which I think is the right one. That Bannon was a critical person, both in his campaign and in building this broader populist nationalist politics that became the basis of Trump's electoral win and supposed to be the basis of his presidency.
BOLDUAN: And so now what? Josh, hold on me. Shannon, what do you make of that?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, I recommend everyone go out and buy Josh's book, a very great read.
BOLDUAN: You can check it in the mail from Josh, Shannon. Go ahead.
PETTYPIECE: I finished it just in time. I just finished it this week. So, I mean, as you had pointed out earlier, Bannon has been on the ropes for a while. There was that infamous fight that spilled into the press between him and Kushner.
Bannon took a lower profile, though, and seemed to have gotten back into Trump's good graces. You know, it's very possible that that book cover -- and we know there 's the curse of Time Magazine, people on the cover of Time Magazine which Bannon was on, tend not to last very long in Trump's good graces.
But a lot of this Bannon has done to himself. You know, shooting out in front of the boss, you know, that interview that he did with the American Prospect, whether it was on the record or off the record, going out there talking about things like North Korea, that he is not an expert in. And then talking about them even if it wasn't supposed -- that he didn't know it was going to be public but talking about them to a reporter. That's a type of thing in General Kelly's world of stepping out of line, of going out of protocol.
That's the type of thing that gets you in bad with someone like General Kelly who now has a lot of influence over staffing and over the president's ear. The chaoticness of this week, that interview, I'm sure throw the book into it. And it was the final last straw for Bannon.
BOLDUAN: But, David, if Bannon is going to war for the president, why didn't he just stay in the White House?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Kate, you're often more effective outside the White House than you are in. I've seen that in past administrations when people get frustrated, when they're outnumbered. And Steven Bannon was clearly outnumbered by the team that Kelly had assembled what he calls the globalist or the West Wing Democrats as he likes to call them.
[19:10:07] And they just -- that movement. You know, (INAUDIBLE) have been talking -- you're going to have people who believe and agree with Bannon versus the more moderate, more conventional type Republicans that you see on Capitol Hill. Let's say a Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnel. And those types could be -- supporting Trump all along here --
BOLDUAN: -- something more from what Bannon just told the Weekly Standard -- it's fascinating that as a longer version of what I said earlier. Let me read this for everybody, "I feel jacked up. Now I'm free. I've got my hands back on my weapons -- definitely going to crush the opposition.
There's no doubt. I built an (INAUDIBLE) machine at Breitbart. And now I'm about to go back knowing what I know and we're about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do."
How dangerous is he?
GREEN: Potentially very dangerous. And not for the reason that a lot of people think. I think there was a lot of trepidation among Republicans that if Bannon were filed -- fired, he would turn his guns on the president himself. And he made clear to me, I think he made clear to Weekly Standard that that is not his intention.
Where he's dangerous is in his ability, now that he's on the outside, uninhibited and has what he calls the weapon of Breitbart news to go out for enemy's within the administration, the same people that he's been attacking on the inside -- Mnuchin, many of the generals, H.R. -- so it cause --
BOLDUAN: -- who the president side with on this?
GREEN: Well, it is in terms of getting rid of -- cares about policy and he's going to put pressure on those people from the outside and believes that he speaks for a large part of Trump's base.
BOLDUAN: David, do you think Bannon is dangerous?
GERGEN: I think Josh was absolutely right in saying Bannon is not turning on the president, he's turning on the people. He thinks that he'd misled the president -- as a person to keep the flag flying from the campaign.
He came in, he often seen as a wildly seen, that Trump doesn't agree with this, but he's widely seen as a man who helped to turn around the campaign with the national economic populism. And he succeeded and he was -- he's kept flying that flag.
And every administration is -- every White House, there tends to be somebody who comes out of the campaign with all the promises and is -- it raises that flag and said we've got to fulfill the promises. That was Steve Bannon but he's also a disrupter and it was impossible to keep him in there if Kelly wanted to have an orderly White House.
BOLDUAN: And Shannon, the person close to the chief of staff, John Kelly says that Kelly is not done. What are you hearing about that?
PETTYPIECE: There's a sense that the rest of these Bannon loyalists in the White House, Sebastian Gorka is a name that comes up over and over again when I talked to people about what they think is going to happen next. That those people are going to be, you know, shown the door.
This question about Stephen Miller, who, you know, was initially sort of aligned with Bannon, but instead of a very good job, positioning himself with the different factions. But, I -- yes, I do think that there's no one protecting the Bannon faction of this White House anymore. And so that is going to slow if not immediately trickle out.
And, you know, as John was talking about earlier, these different factions initially, you're mentioning the three factions, the RNC, the Bannon crowd, and the, you know, Gary Cohn globalist Javanka crowd. There's two other factions I would pointed there that are still left and that's the generals, which we've been talking about with General Kelly, Dunford, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Mattis at the Defense Department are all very close. You have them and Mike Pence.
You guys, that was a great photo you guys showed earlier, showing everybody gone from the inner circle except Pence. Well, Pence has a very sophisticated political operation behind him.
I was just in Latin America with him for a week. They are professional, organized, they are focused on getting task done. If the president gives them a task, they're going to, you know, lay their focus, like get it done and they run the Hill.
No one in that White House now knows the Hill like Mike Pence and his staff and Marc Short, the head of Legislative Affairs who came up through Pence. So, I think that there's going to be increasing influence now from Mike Pence, the generals, as well as the Javanka globalist crowd.
BOLDUAN: David, about that photo -- I mean, there's always turnover in a White House, no question. But this is an important moment, just so everyone knows, this was when the president was talking to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. This was his dinner circle that was there with them.
Everyone, except Pence, is now gone. All of them except for the vice president, of course. There's always turnover, but these many this fast, what does this tell you?
GERGEN: No. There's always turnover but there's never turn and chaos of the kind we've seen here. In seven months, eight critical players in this White House have left in seven months. We've never seen anything like that.
[19:15:03] It's often true that after a couple of years, a president starts bringing in a new team, put a second team on the field but not this early. And I think that that's a (INAUDIBLE) about Trump himself and I think through all of these, we cannot lost sight of the fact that what central to the Trump presidency and has caused so much division within the country is the man himself. Staff come and go.
The president is still there, he still has his own views. The man we saw on Tuesday talking about Charlottesville was speaking from his own heart. And Steve Bannon didn't have to be there.
So, the one of the big, big question is what future does Donald Trump see for himself and for his administration? I don't think we know tonight what he envisions. BOLDUAN: That's a big question mark. All, thank you very much, well appreciated.
OutFront for us next, new details on how Steve Bannon prepared for his White House exit and Bannon's return to what he calls his killing machine, Brietbart News.
Plus, the reporter whose interview with Bannon infuriated the president, just days before he was fired.
And Democrats taking action, at least trying against the president tonight. Will Donald Trump be officially censured? Be right back.
BOLDUAN: Breaking news, new details tonight about how Steve Bannon prepared for his exit from the White House. The new -- the now, former White House chief strategist believed he put the pieces in place for his agenda to live on without him. That's according to sources close to Bannon.
[19:20:03] Those sources were also telling CNN that Bannon downplayed concern about his imminent firing telling associates he would return to his, quote, killing machine, Breitbart.
Late today, we learned that he did just that. And the sources say Bannon believed he would be even more powerful at Breitbart than he was at the White House.
OutFront with me tonight, Bryan Lanza, he served as deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, and Dan Pfeiffer, he served as senior adviser and communications director for President Obama. Great to see you guys.
So, Bryan, in Bannon's mind, he was putting pieces in place to ensure that his agenda lives on beyond him. Do you think it does?
BRYAN LANZA, DEPUTY COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR FOR THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, absolutely. I mean, his agenda is very much in concert with the president's agenda and it's very much in concert with the electoral majority that elected them in November.
So yes -- I mean, it's -- what the President has is now he has an outside player that's probably more effective at executing his vision and the mandate. But, you know, it's just, you know, it's where we are today.
BOLDUAN: It is surely where we are today.
Dan, do you think with Bannon's firing you're going to see changes in the president?
DAN PFEIFFER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER AND COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: No. We're not going to see changes. It didn't matter if Bannon was there, it didn't matter if he was in Trump's favor, out of Trump's favor. Like, he listen to that whole segment about the Javanka group, Gary Cohn, Reince Priebus, John Kelly, none of it has matter.
Trump is Trump. He's the reason the presidency is in shambles. He hired Kelly who was supposed to be this pivot point. And he just had the worst week of his presidency.
So, I don't -- look, I think we can all stop with worrying about who's up, who's down in the Trump presidency. All that matters is Trump is there. And so, if Bannon at Breitbart or is in the White House or whatever, I don't think it matters that much.
BOLDUAN: But it's just too fun to talk about. Bryan --
BOLDUAN: -- with the agenda living on, as you say, there's also this, Bannon just told the Weekly Standard this tonight. Let me read it for you.
He wrote -- he said this, "The Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over. We still have a huge movement and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over.
It'll be something else. And there'll be all kinds of fights and there'll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over."
What exactly is he saying? What does that mean?
LANZA: Listen, I think, Steve has had to get a headline and he certainly got a headline with his quotes. But I think what it ultimately means is that, you know, the president arrived there with a mandate, with an agenda and Steve was a part of that. And he thought that's sort of the institutional powers here in the Washington D.C have slowed that agenda down.
And, you know, he's clearly frustrated, as with anybody who is frustrated, that's what the millions of Americans were frustrated, who expect the change in November and still waiting for that change to take place. You know, that's the situation, and it's a healthy process to sort of bring in new energy and new people and set up a proper structure. So that we do complete the promises we made to the American people.
BOLDUAN: So, Bryan, you think it is a good thing that you -- that Bannon is out?
LANZA: Listen, I don't want to say it's a good thing that Bannon's out. It's a good thing that we're turning the page and moving forward to the agenda that the people voted for. I think there's distractions that don't need to be distractions. And let's, you know, let's -- at the end of the day, this presidency is about Donald Trump and it's about the people that voted for him. Not about, you know, any particular employee or anything like that.
BOLDUAN: Tell that to Steve Bannon, Bryan, the next time you talk to him. Dan --
LANZA: I'll tell you what -- I mean, Steve Bannon is really well. I mean, he's got working concert with this president.
BOLDUAN: I was -- I'm playing Bryan. Dan, do you see this presidency as over?
PFEIFFER: No. Look, I read the Steve Bannon quotes and I just laughed because I don't know what fantasy he's living with in his head. He runs a website and a mediocre wanted that. He has some sort of army, he's a media player.
That's fine. He is like -- in his mind, he's the leader of some populus movement. He is just a guy with website. He was in the White House, he's now out of the White House.
And I can tell you one thing, (INAUDIBLE) work in the White House and then outside the White House, you have much more influence inside. He got kicked out because he got fired, lost favor.
That's it. We can move on. And I don't think it's going to -- I just don't think that this is going to matter that much in the end.
LANZA: Yes, I think he is right. I mean, we know what the president's agenda is. It's just a matter of getting all the staff moving forward in that. Bannon inside or outside it doesn't change the mandate that the president was elected upon on what the people are expecting.
I think Steve played a good role. He'll continue to play a good role from the outside. You know, obviously you want to be near the center of influence which is the Oval Office.
I'm sure you now had the circumstances been different. If Steve would have liked to stay on, but once you saw General Kelly come in and sort of to try right the ship, he -- Bannon being a good military officer in the past, he saw the things were going and he decided to play a big team player and move forward with everything.
BOLDUAN: Bannon, Dan, also told the Weekly Standard that he believes things are about to get worse for President Trump. He said this, "There is about to be a jailbreak of these moderate guys on the Hill."
I mean, we've seen that over the past few days in terms of their response to Charlottesville. But what is Steve Bannon acknowledging here? What is Bannon trying to message here?
PFEIFFER: Well, I'm not entirely sure. I don't really have a mind about what Steve Bannon thinking is.
[19:25:03] But, look, I think things are about to get worse. Trump's relationships on the Hill have never been worse, they were never great, they're worst now. And September is going to be a really hard month.
They are going to have to make a very hard decision around the debt ceiling and the budget. And that is going to be a real test. And I have been through those with a much better functioning, president with better relationships on the Hill and they were hard then.
So, either in, you have that, you have the Russia probe looming. You have a lot of things. I think this is going to get worse before it gets better for President Trump.
BOULDON: What do you think, Bryan? Do you think things are going to get worse before it gets better?
LANZA: Listen, the presidency is always challenging. And I think people rise to those moments and people rise to those challenges and I have the same expectation of President Trump.
Obviously, you know, you have the debt ceiling, you get some key deadlines looming. But I also think you have a team, you know, under the leadership of General Kelly who sort of worked out the kinks and they know what their focuses are. And they're going to achieve those focuses.
I mean, the president here didn't come to Washington, D.C to, sort of, get along with the Tea Party crowd at a cocktail hour. He came here representing the people, the vast majority of the people here in Washington, D.C to disrupt it, to change it, to fix it.
BOLDUAN: Right. But he's got to work with somebody now because he's making the conservatives mad. He's making moderates mad. He's got to find somebody to work with.
LANZA: You know, it's not a function of working with D.C. It's a function of informing D.C what the American people want. I mean, I think that's what people forget about. Everybody thinks we come to D.C and it should resolve around D.C.
And that (INAUDIBLE) this country should involved better than the majority of the country wants. And they want change here out of D.C and I think politicians forget that sometimes.
BOLDUAN: But to get that things through, to get (INAUDIBLE), you got to work with Congress. That's my only point.
LANZA: Yes. You do. And the president has partnerships and friendships there. And he sometimes, you know, they clash a little bit and it's a healthy process. You know the electorate --
BOLDUAN: Clash a little bit? Clash a little bit, that is why we report it right. Great to see you --
PFEIFFER: Yes, he endorsed Jeff Flake's opponent.
BOLDUAN: Bryan, yes. Bryan and Dan, great to see you. Thanks, guys.
LANZA: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: OutFront next, Bannon is already back at Breitbart. Will he use the website against Trump now? My next guest knows Steve Bannon. What's his next move?
And just how much did this play a role in Trump's fury at Bannon?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have my desk back?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course Mr. President, I'll go sit in my desk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:30:43] BOLDUAN: Welcome back to OUTFRONT.
And we're following the breaking news: Steve Bannon is out and already back at "Breitbart News", the right wing Website that he once ran. A source telling our Jim Acosta, that Trump's chief strategist was given the option to resign, but was forced out.
OUTFRONT now, "The New York Times" reporter who broke the story, White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.
Maggie, it's great to hear from you.
We already are hearing some strong words from Bannon. He's free. He's back on his weapons in this interview. Do you think the White House is uneasy about those words?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): I think the White House made a calculation that it was still better to not have Steve Bannon in than the risk that he poses from the outside. But I think that there are a number of White House staffers who were concerned about the havoc that Steve Bannon could wreak.
And to your point, he's already laying down the marker of the presidency as he knew it being over. He has made a clear signal to Trump supporters and the base that elected him to not see what goes forward and what happens next as something legitimate.
BOLDUAN: We know Steve Bannon clashed with a lot of people at the White House. In this "Weekly Standard" interview, Bannon blames the thwarting of his plans to the West Wing Democrats. Take us inside the White House. How toxic were those relationships there?
HABERMAN: Oh, no, they were pretty toxic. I mean, what you read is pretty accurate. Look, I mean, you saw in this interview, the final straw for Bannon this week.
I think there was some psychology at play here. He is not a dumb man. He called a reporter who he had never spoken to before and preceded to talk, you know, for however long it was about his views of the war, his views of North Korea and his views of officials like Gary Cohn, the president's top economic advisor, has come to represent in Steve Bannon's line exactly, you know, what is wrong with this West Wing, or at least that's what he said. That feud has been broiling for months. It was hard to imagine that
people were going to the White House every day working together. Bannon had been in something of an isolation of making recently and just sort of living outside of a lot of these meetings. Some of them he was not invited. But now, you know, he is fully out of there and while he has communicated to several people that he has no plans to attack the president, I'm not sure how else you can interpret him saying the presidency is over.
BOLDUAN: Bannon is also skeptical of Trump's ability going forward, I guess, in "The Weekly Standard", saying this in part: I just think his ability to get anything done, particularly the bigger things like the wall, the bigger, broader things that we fought for is just going to be that much harder.
I mean, do your sources in the White House see things that same way post-Bannon?
HABERMAN: Now, look, I mean, most people in the White House have been trying to minimize Bannon as one way or other over many, many months. You know, he formed this alliance with Reince Priebus. You saw sort of this domino effect where Sean Spicer was gone and Reince Priebus was gone. Bannon was supposed to be gone around that, but he hung on for a while.
But you have seen a lot of push back from some of the people close to the president suggesting that -- again, go back to April when he was first feuding with Kushner, this idea that he -- Trump has always chased that. But Bannon is very clearly framing it that way, that he was the key driver, that if these things don't happen it is because of his absence. In reality, a lot of these thing wills be pretty heavy lift.
But I do think Steve Bannon is correct in making the case that he was the person who had really driven the president earliest policy moves like the travel ban.
BOLDUAN: Great to hear from you, Maggie. A lot more to come on this. Really appreciate it.
OUTFRONT now, Robert Kuttner, he's the man who conducted that controversial issue with Bannon that a White House official says left President Trump furious. He is the co-editor of "The American Prospect".
[19:35:00] And also with us, CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston to digest more of this.
Robert, your interview is cited as one of the last straws, if you will, for the president when it came to Bannon. Did you get the sense at the time that what Bannon was telling you could bring him down?
ROBERT KUTTNER, CO-EDITOR, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT: Well, I got the sense of somebody who was very full of himself, who was very reckless. First of all, reckless in thinking that he could call an editor of a well-known liberal publication and talk almost as if we were having a private strategy conversation, not bother to even say whether this was off the record and somehow think this would play to his advantage.
The other thing that's really bizarre -- I mean, Maggie broke the story that there had been a resignation letter two weeks ago and here, Bannon is talking with me, inviting me to the White House after Labor Day, and talking as if he's still going to be in charge of trade policy. Both things can't be true. And I certainly trust Maggie's reporting on this.
So, you wonder if Bannon is giving this kind of a last hoorah, pretending that he's still going to be here, knowing that he's going to be out, or if he knows that he's going down in flames and what the hell, he might as well say what he thinks. And I think this kind of hubris, this kind of grandiosity may not serve Bannon well as he tries to jam the president in his reinstated role as chairman of Breitbart, because you can't really have it both ways.
He can either continue to be the president's confidant where the president calls him at 2:00 in the morning and talks strategy about how far to go with neo-Nazis and nationalist extremists and Breitbart isn't -- I mean, Bannon isn't in, but he's still Trump's confidant. Or you can have Bannon at Breitbart kicking the president in the shins. It's kind of hard to imagine that he could do both things.
And I think the single thing that annoyed Trump more than anything else is being up staged by staff. We saw this with Scaramucci. There is room for only one Trump at the White House. It is one thing for Bannon to advise Trump. It's another thing for Bannon to think he is Trump, to have the same kind of grandiosity that his boss has. So, Bannon trying to have it both ways I think is playing a risky role here.
BOLDUAN: Mark, of course, a lot of questions now about what is next for Bannon. He's back at Breitbart tonight. But what are you hearing?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's back at Breitbart tonight and has gone back in a really ball of fire, right, and they certainly have played it up very hard on their website.
But in addition to that, I heard that Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff who just left a couple weeks ago and Steve Bannon, had been talking about potentially forming a media and political firm. Now, the talks they had very much in the nascent stages, but that very well still could happen. Just because he is heading up "Breitbart" doesn't mean that he can't go out and also try to do some political firm as well.
So, we'll be looking to see what happens in the next couple weeks to see if Reince Priebus who left a couple weeks ago and Steve Bannon who is now out will come together and form some kind of a political firm.
BOLDUAN: You know, Robert, in your interview, Bannon clearly contradicted President Trump on the president's messaging, on North Korea. He also made it seem like he had the power to hire and fire pretty much anybody he wanted in the administration. We hear that that is one thing that bothered President Trump for sure.
What do you think Bannon's point was, though, then in telling you that? He's a smart guy.
KUTTNER: Well, yes, he's a smart guy, but he's a grandiose guy, and this is a classic case of hubris. I mean, to think contacts me and trying to ingratiate himself with me and thinking that I could be some kind of an ally regarding his preferred policy on trade, it is a little crazy because you can just imagine Steve Bannon going into a meeting at the National Security Council pitching a harder line on trade and say, hey, guess what, I got Bob Kuttner on my side. I mean, that doesn't exactly enhance his credibility with the rest of the administration.
So, I think this is Bannon forgetting that his loyalty is supposed to be to the president, Bannon being the kind of freelance as he's been so often that has gotten him in trouble with his colleagues, gotten him in the trouble with the president and not being able to restrain himself.
My takeaway from that conversation was here is a guy who was incredibly full of himself, very clever, very smart, but given to severe lapses in judgment. And that whole interview was one lapse in judgment after another in terms of the indiscreet things that he said. And he also tried to have it both ways in terms of whether that interview was on the record or off the record.
[19:40:01] First, he said there was a misunderstanding. This was supposed to be off the record. And then a day later, he's bragging at an interview of "The Daily Mail" that it was deliberately on the record to divert the media's attention from all of the -- you know, from all the controversy about Charlottesville. Well, that didn't work very well if that his intent.
So, he's one of those people who will say anything, who will contradict himself from one day to another day. He also, you know, have said all these disparaging things about the far right base which he really created as Trump shock troops and expecting that the editor of a liberal magazine "The American Prospect" is going to be gullible enough to believe that. He's a very odd duck.
BOLDUAN: Complicated man, maybe we'd say.
Mark, one of the things and many folks noted quite often that irks the president maybe more than anything is if someone steals the limelight from him. Steve Bannon has certainly gotten a lot of attention. He got it early on. He's definitely getting it today. I mean, starting with the "TIME" magazine cover that happened in February to how Bannon was portrayed on "'SNL".
If you need a reminder, here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARACTER: OK, Donald. That's enough fun for tonight. Can I have my desk back? ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, of course, Mr. President. I'll
go sit at my desk.
BALDWIN: So much fun. I love it.
CHARACTER: Yes. This is fun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Here's the thing, Mark -- both of those big things people have pointed to happened back in February. He survived six more months. Why wasn't he able to survive this one?
PRESTON: I think it's built up to the point where there was no return and, you know, there is a possibility, too, that this was done -- when you talk to people, I should say there was an inevitability after Reince Priebus left, after Sean Spicer left or had announced he was leaving that Steve Bannon was going to be the next to go. So, there was an inevitability I think amongst us in Washington that Steve Bannon was not long for the White House.
But there is something to be said that it was done today to try to change the narrative that has been disastrous right now for Donald Trump, and that is that Donald Trump is a racist, based upon the remarks that he made that really tore the fabric of our nation regarding what happened in Charlottesville. All we've been talking today is Steve Bannon leaving the White House. He is a very important aide, make no doubt about.
I would say this, though, we shouldn't take our eye or ear off of what the president said earlier this week regarding Charlottesville because that is a much bigger story that has a long lasting consequences, Kate.
BOLDUAN: It absolutely does. Gentlemen, great to see you. Thank you so much.
OUTFRONT next, Democrats tonight demanding that President Trump be censured for his Charlottesville remarks. The effort is gaining steam. Be right back.
[19:46:36] BOLDUAN: Breaking news: Steve Bannon fired from the White House and back at work at "Breitbart".
In an interview with "The Weekly Standard", Bannon says this, at one point: I'm definitely going to crush the opposition. There is no doubt. I built an f'ing machine at "Breitbart" and now, I'm about to go back, knowing what I know and we're about to rev that machine up and rev it up we will do.
He comes after one of the site's senior editors upon learning of Bannon's firing sent a simple one word tweet, war.
Is it a threat? A warning? A promise? All the above?
OUTFRONT now, Chris Buskirk. He's the editor of "American Greatness". And Kurt Bardella, he's a former "Breitbart" spokesman who is now the president of Endeavor Strategies.
Great to see you both.
So, Kurt, Bannon is back at "Breitbart", says this about revving up the machine. What do you make of it?
KURT BARDELLA, FORMER BREITBART SPOKESMAN: Well, I don't think he ever really left "Breitbart", which is why it was so seamless and quick to go from one end of the Pennsylvania Avenue down to the other, and be on that editorial call tonight. I think you will see a liberated Steve Bannon. This is not somebody who's meant to work for somebody, to serve at the pleasure of somebody. He's meant to be his own boss, his own figure.
And I think that you're going to see now that he's outside of the West Wing, outside of the chain of command, he's going to be able to resume the life he had before and dictate whatever he wants. I think that means bad news for folks who are left behind in the White House, people like Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Gary Cohn, the so-called West Wing Democrats as he refers to them, and really back from congressional leadership, Speaker Ryan, Senator McConnell, other senators like Jeff Flake. I think they're going to come under immense fire from "Breitbart" and Bannon.
And while Steve talks about wanting to be able to help the president from the outside, I think what he means by that is help remove all the barriers that Steve perceives exist that are preventing Trump from being his true self. When he talked about that "Weekly Standard" story, you know, the president that we voted for, that we supported is gone now, that presidency is dead, I think that speaks a lot to what you're going to see in the future from Steve and from "Breitbart".
BOLDUAN: So, Chris, you spoke to Bannon just this week. Where was his head at then before all of this went down?
CHRIS BUSKIRK, PUBLISHER & EDITOR, AMERICAN GREATNESS: You know, he was -- I mean, Steve is always an energetic guy. And this week, I just thought that was taken up to 11, if you will. He was ebullient, he was effervescent, he was full of ideas and plans, and maybe he knew this was coming. And so, now, we know why, he was full of plans looking forward to a time when he could go forward and advocate for Trump's agenda.
BOLDUAN: Kurt, can I single in on the editor's tweet, war. Of course, everyone is going to wonder what that means. Well, the editor spoke out this evening and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That depends entirely on President Trump, if he sticks to the issues on which he was elected, if he fulfills the promises that used to hang on Steve Bannon's wall in the West Wing, then I think you will see positive coverage not just from Breitbart news or from other conservative media outlets. However, if this becomes an Arnold Schwarzenegger situation, where he swings to the left in an attempt to appease his critics in the media and the Democratic Party, then I think you will see a war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: If it does come to a war with the president, what does it look like?
BARDELLA: Well, I think it looks like a lot of the negative stories that the mainstream media has covered, that folks like "Breitbart" have ignored or try to really cover for, that cover all of a sudden goes away.
[19:50:04] Maybe you start to see pages on Russia investigation on the pages of "Breitbart" which has remained fairly sullen about it.
Maybe you see some stories pointing blame at the agenda that the president is unsuccessfully trying to put forward, more stories highlighting the negative poll numbers perhaps. I think that the block and cover element that "Breitbart" has really served for this, that are part of it now, I think could go away if Trump doesn't do what the Breitbart/Bannon team think that he should.
Now, it will be very interesting to see how President Trump responds to this threat. Now, remember, a lot of what put Bannon in the dog house was the idea he was somehow responsible for Donald Trump. Trump hated that he was on the cover of "TIME", hated that he participated in Josh Green's book and got kind of co-billing on the cover. If Trump decides that I'm going to show Steve and I'm going to be my own guy, and I'm going to do some things directly opposite Steve to prove my dominance, because again, Trump is an egomaniac and a narcissist, it could create a lot of friction very, very quickly.
BOLDUAN: Chris, you venture to guess Breitbart versus the president, who wins?
BUSKIRK: Well, the question really is whether or not the president and the Republicans at Congress are going to fulfill the promises that were made last year during the election. When Steve Bannon says, I'm going back to "Breitbart" and I'm going to -- I'm going to advocate for the president, he means he's going to advocate for the principles and the policies that the president ran on. I mean right now, all we have left in the West Wing is really neo conservatives and Democrats. And if you're smarter than I am if you can tell the difference between the two.
And so, Steve Bannon was seen by the base as the person who represented the president's promises, the agenda he ran on. So, I don't see a war between Bannon and the president. What I see is a war by "Breitbart" trying to advocate for the agenda that got Trump elected.
BOLDUAN: Gentlemen, great to see you. Thanks for the perspective. Really appreciate it.
BARDELLA: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, top Democrats moving to formally condemn Trump for his Charlottesville remarks. Would censure really mean anything?
Be right back.
BOLDUAN: Democrats targeting President Trump in the wake of his controversial comments on Charlottesville, blaming both sides for the violence there. One congressman pushing for impeachment. Former Vice President Al Gore calling on Trump to resign. And some House Democrats aren't going that far. They're now pushing for censure.
And to be clear, censure of course is not impeachment. It's symbolic. Congress has not successfully censured a president since the '70s. But here we are today.
OUTFRONT with me now, one of the Democrats who just introduced the censure resolution, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York.
Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you.
BURNETT: I do not need to remind you yet again, Congressman, you are not in the majority. And this, as I said, this resolution, it is symbolic. What are you going -- what are you going for here?
[19:55:01] NADLER: Well, we're going hopefully to pass it. This is really a test of the Republican -- I mean, the Democratic leadership is now supporting the resolution. We've got over 100 co-sponsors just since Wednesday. But --
BURNETT: What does it do?
NADLER: What does it do? It censures and condemns the president for putting the neo-Nazis, the KKK, the -- the white supremacists and the people who oppose him on the same moral plane. It says this is not where the United States is.
And the reason that it is necessary to censure the president is that the president normally is seen to speak to the American people and speak for this country. And this is so out of line, so contrary to American values that Congress I feel has to step in and say no, the president doesn't speak for us. The president speaks contrary to American values and the Congress is repudiating the president, and saying that the United States doesn't stand for the equivalence of Nazism and racial supremacists, indecent people.
BOLDUAN: A couple of things o that. The editorial board of "USA Today", they actually put an op-ed, and they're on your side on this. They say actually -- NADLER: Millions of people are on our side.
BOLDUAN: They're calling on Republicans to join Democrats' efforts in censuring the president. Have you gotten a single buy-in from a single Republican on this?
NADLER: Well, this has just happened since Wednesday and we're not in session. We'll be talking to Republicans. I mean, a number of Republicans have condemned the president's remarks.
But I think it's time to put their money where their mouth is and join in censure resolution of the president, and we'll see whether they do. This would be a real test for the Republicans.
BOLDUAN: But what is it testing them on? It's a symbolic measure.
NADLER: No -- well, symbolism is very important in world affairs, because people see what a country stands for and what they're doing. And right now, they're looking at Donald Trump and seeing the United States. And we have to say, this is not the United States.
And we will see if they're willing to come out and say that. So far, we've seen Republicans say, we don't agree with this. We haven't seen them condemn the president and saying --
BOLDUAN: Well --
NADLER: We haven't seen them censure or condemn the president saying it is wrong, it is improper, it is beyond the pale to compare or to -- neo-Nazis and white supremacists --
BOLDUAN: Some of them have gone that far. I mean, Bob Corker was questioning the president's competency on this.
NADLER: Yes, he did, and I would hope that he now support a censure resolution.
BOLDUAN: Before you get to the resolution, you need Democrats on board.
NADLER: Wait a second, slow down a second, I'm glad he's questioned the president's competence. But this has questioned the president's morality (INAUDIBLE).
BOLDUAN: Before you get Republicans on board, you need to get Democrats on board. That's a sure thing?
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, who was on CNN today, he was asked about this move. He did not appear that he was ready to jump on board. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D), HAWAII: It's just a symbol as I would like to talk to my colleagues, I would like to see what the legislative vehicle is, and I would like to be planful and thoughtful about how we move forward. If a censure vehicle gives us that opportunity, then I'm certainly open to exploring it. But I don't want to jump the gun and force Republicans back into their corner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: He's a Democratic senator. Are you jumping the gun?
NADLER: No, I don't think we're jumping the gun. There are several vehicles available. And this is the one that seems the most advisable now.
Some people introduced an impeachment resolution. I think it's too early, we don't have the evidence that call for impeachment. Maybe we will one day, but we don't now. This is a reasonable now, and we've gotten, as I said, within a day and a half, over 100 members and the Democratic leadership from the chairman of the national committee, to the minority leader and so forth. I think it's moving and we'll see where it goes.
BOLDUAN: Other big news today, of course, is Steve Bannon's firing. You are no fan of Steve Bannon. You called him dangerous more than once, and called him many other things. He is now out.
NADLER: And the resolution is that he'd be fired, specifically.
BOLDUAN: Now, you got to change the resolution. (INAUDIBLE)
Do you leave open the possibility with Steve Bannon now that things from your perspective will get better with this president?
NADLER: One hopes and prays that they will get better, because he is the president and whatever -- and so I certainly hope they will get better. The fact is the president who hired people like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who is involved with neo-Nazi groups in Europe has --
NADLER: I think it's pretty clear. In any event, has been indulging in dog whistles and racism for many years before he was president, before he hired these people, from the birther controversy to many other things, he said to Judge Curiel, to call the Mexicans rapists. So, this goes back a long way.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, appreciate your time. Thanks for coming in.
NADLER: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: And thank you so much for joining us. Have a wonderful weekend.
John Berman is in for Anderson Cooper tonight. "AC360" starts right now.