Steve Bannon, the bomb-throwing former Breitbart executive who serves as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was huddling at an out-of-the-way table with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in an attempt to broker peace in a deepening — and, increasingly, distracting — rift between rival West Wing factions.
As Trump grew frustrated with the clear tensions between Bannon and Kushner, his ascendant senior adviser, he insisted they work out their differences.
“We gotta work this out,” Trump told the pair on Thursday, according to a White House official. “Cut it out.”
The message came after the ideological divide between Bannon and Kushner, which had split White House staffers and stood poised to determine the administration’s agenda moving forward, had spilled into the open through media reports.
That led to the Friday meeting, which was coordinated by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
Priebus’ goal was “to get them on the same page,” a senior administration official said.
Priebus, after that meeting, told the president that they had a good talk, according to the official.
It’s still not clear, however, whether the detente will hold.
“Time will tell,” the official said.
One person who has spoken with Trump in the last day said the President expressed doubts that the differences have been resolved, but hopes Bannon and Kushner can bring the feuding into check.
In asking his two advisers to work out their differences, the President has made his displeasure at the infighting known. He has told people if it doesn’t get better, he will take action — though he hasn’t detailed precisely what his moves might entail.
Trump still values Bannon and his advice, his confidantes say, and isn’t opposed to dueling positions among his staff. He just wants the differences to remain contained and constructive.
The divide between Bannon and Kushner has extended beyond the two men themselves, who work in abutting offices just steps from the Oval Office.
Both Cohn and Powell — who both came to the administration directly from Goldman Sachs — are viewed internally as close to Kushner, a dynamic that rankled those in the White House close to Bannon.
Bannon’s faction has come to refer to Cohn as “Globalist Gary,” an insult for those aligned with Bannon’s populist views.
Bannon, meanwhile, has told associates that he feels an extended battle with Kushner — and by extension Trump’s daughter Ivanka — is “unwinnable” given Trump’s loyalty to his family. But he’s committed to pursuing a conservative agenda for however long Trump will listen to him.
He has said he’s determined to continue pressing for key issues that helped propel Trump to the White House: cracking down on illegal immigration and scrapping the federal regulations he says compose an overbearing “administrative state.”
But Bannon’s standing in Trump’s inner-circle has been diminished. He was stripped of a post on the National Security Council this week, even as Kushner waded further into his father-in-law’s foreign policy affairs with a trip to Iraq and a leadership role in preparing for this week’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Bannon’s ouster from the National Security Council on Wednesday was only the latest sign of Kushner’s rise, sources said. While H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, has been working for weeks to find a way to rid the White House foreign policy operation of Bannon, it was ultimately Kushner’s influence that made it happen, sources said.
Bannon deemed reports that he recently threatened to quit “ridiculous.”
The White House has tamped down on suggestions a staff shakeup is imminent.
“The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the President’s aggressive agenda forward,” spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Friday.
Another official stressed nobody is leaving the White House anytime soon.
“Quite the opposite,” the official said. “All agreed to move forward united.”