America’s Great Divide: Steve Bannon, 2nd Interview | FRONTLINE

America’s Great Divide: Steve Bannon, 2nd Interview | FRONTLINE

So we’re in the summer of 2017. The president is waffling on DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. You recognize that. He’s talking in press conferences about feeling for the kids. He knows kids; he’s got kids himself. You’re concerned. You call Kris Kobach, and you guys have a plan. Can you tell me about— Yeah. I don’t know if I would call it “waffling” with the president. If you go back and look at President Trump, candidate Trump, citizen Trump, you know, he’s always— and he looks at this, I think, holistically, right, not just from a policy perspective. And this has followed him from the time he was a private citizen. So he is on anything on immigration—on the wall, on asylum, on, you know, gaming the system— he’s always had, you know, a more holistic, I think, idea or concept than someone, I would say, who would be the immigration hard-liners or people that think that we have to, you know, control our sovereignty and also protect our low-skilled workers, particularly Hispanic and African American. … What Kobach—Kris is, I think, considered the top lawyer in the immigration debate on our side of the football. And so it was decided that he was going to talk to certain attorney generals [sic] in the spring of ’17 about bringing a suit, particularly Louisiana and maybe Texas teaming together, so you go to the 5th Circuit and actually bring something up on DACA and get it into the court system to ultimately prove that it’s obviously unconstitutional. What happened is I think the Texas attorney general wrote a letter to Jeff Sessions and said, “This is essentially what we’re going to do.” Sessions—and when you say “waffling,” the president, a lot of times he’s thinking through his policy and getting feedback. Remember, he is a marketer, and he’s trying to figure out, in his mind, what is the right way to go. And like I said, if you talk to Stephen Miller or Jeff Sessions or myself, people that have been with the president, you know, for even before the campaign, but have been people that talked to him about immigration for years— Lou Dobbs—you would see that this is one that—I’m not saying he’s ambivalent, but he’s always trying to think through a more what I would call holistic solution than some of the immigration hard-liners. And what Sessions did is then gave a pretty important speech in the fall of 2017, at the same time all these debates were going on the budget and debt ceiling, and DACA was part of that, and said that essentially it was unconstitutional, and they were going to go forward. Kelly then came out in I think 2018, early 2018, said we’re going to phase it out, which was from the hard-liners’ perspective not what we wanted. We wanted to be more aggressive than that. Certain progressive, liberal, left-wing groups then went to court. It’s in the court system today. And so DACA is one that I think is emblematic, quite frankly, about a lot of the ambivalence throughout the entire country on certain issues of immigration. Did they help—did that suit help pressure things? Not pressure. I think what it was is it brought in high relief—you know, people have argued for a long time that what President Obama did was unconstitutional and that this should be taken care of and then dealt— and then deal with the situation once you prove it’s unconstitutional. I think what Kobach and the attorney generals wanted to do was to get this up at the right level and let’s get on with it; let’s quit having all this kind of disparate movements. And I think that’s why the Texas A.G. took the lead, wrote a very powerful letter, really put the attorney general on notice. Jeff Sessions, obviously being a hard-liner on immigration, came out with his speech, which I think was a pretty seminal speech at the time, in the fall of 2017. And I think this is one of the benefits of Trump’s presidency, is that it brought— you know, all this stuff had kind of been going in different directions, and things were never really brought to conclusion, or at least brought to the venue where you could determine, make some determination. I think that that was—I thought it was a big help, and quite frankly is what we intended to have done very early on. … So let me now jump to Jan. 9 and Jan. 11. This is ’18. This is the White House meeting where there’s a bipartisan group that’s come over from the Hill that’s now meeting in the Cabinet Room. It’s being broadcast on CNN. I’m curious to know where you are around this time, because it looks in that meeting like the president is about to agree to do a clean DREAM Act or DACA deal. [Rep.] Kevin McCarthy has to kind of pull him back, right? Right. So there’s that.
And then there’s a day. And on the 11th, the president calls [Sen. Dick] Durbin and [Sen. Lindsey] Graham from the Hill. They’re on their way over to the White House because he wants to sign something; that’s what he’s told them. They get there, and there is a group of hard-liners. Representative [Robert] Goodlatte is there; Sen. [Tom] Cotton is there. Help me understand what’s changed, what’s gone on in these two days. Yeah. Well, once again, I think this is—it shows that the—how the president is trying to think through this. Remember, Durbin and Graham don’t just appear in January of ’18 in the Roosevelt Room. They are in the spring of ’17. One of the reasons that Kobach is kind of brought into the mix and we start talking to the attorney generals, there is a huge movement behind the scenes in the spring of ’17 with—led by Durbin and— and Graham and certain elements, certain more progressive elements in the White House, of— in fact, this is where Gen. [John] Kelly is essentially jumped at a hearing and said, “Hey, you know, about this DACA thing, we’re way down the road,” and Kelly knows absolutely nothing about it. Gen. Kelly is so upset that he’s saying, hey—he informs the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and others, right, maybe some of the progressive elements working with Durbin and Graham: “This can’t happen again. If you’re going to start talking about DACA, you know, this is my purview; this is in my vertical; I’ve got to be in the loop.” So the Durbin-Graham thing is from almost the beginning of the administration. You have this, you know, and I wouldn’t—it was kind of the moderate element of the Republican Party, the Republican establishment apparatus that is, to me, very open borders, very much almost ideologically tied to the left in a large extent to give some happy talk about border security. But they’re very inclined to agree. And I think in January, you start to see this play out. Kelly gets involved. There’s going to be this decrease in DACA. That’s what comes out of this. But those two elements—and here’s what’s interesting. You call Goodlatte and Cotton, or Goodlatte particularly, hard-liners; from the hard-liners’ perspective, they’re, you know, moderates. But that is the voices you’re hearing. And President Trump is—he—it’s a Socratic process, you know. He’s thinking this through as he goes along. Remember, on DACA particularly, where he’s very hard-line on the wall, he’s very hard-line on asylum, you know, many of these things, like birthright citizenship today, about the ability to go on welfare immediately, public services, you know, President Trump is extremely—has—his default position is tough. On DACA, it’s the one that he’s, I would say, ambivalent on and searching for an answer that he thinks is right, searching for a solution that fits Donald Trump. And I’ve always respected that. And I was very open about, hey, here’s— and I’ve always said, and one of the reasons I seem to take, you know, sometimes extreme positions on issues, that’s how you can get to compromise. If you take these extreme issues, positions, and you identify it clearly of what it is and the trade-offs, that allows people room to actually have a discussion and a debate internally. But Jan. 18 will go down, I think, as one that—and it’s one of the reasons I think things have dragged on to date. I think the progressive groups went to court right after that, and we still don’t have the clarity on DACA. But thinking back to the early immigration work that you and Sessions and Miller were involved in and know so well, when you’re watching the meeting on the 9th, are you worried? Are you freaking out? No, I’m not freaking out, but it’s—it’s part of the process. You just have to—you just have to—you just have to—you just have to work the program. Somebody’s got to get in there, you know. We have to get Stephen. These things are going to happen. They happen on other issues, too. It’s happened on—it happens on national security when people wanted to take kinetic military action and other people who are more inclined to do economic warfare, this is the way, you know— here’s the thing about Trump, and this is why I think he is a stabilizing force: He looks at all options, and he’s going to take the option he thinks is best and one of the ones that’s maybe argued the best and has the most backup to it. And in DACA, yeah, am I concerned? You’re always concerned, particularly when you hear that, “Hey, I want to sign—guys are coming up because I want to sign something.” So yeah, you’ve got to be concerned. But at that time, particularly with Stephen in the White House, and Sessions was still—and even Kelly, who was never a DACA hard-liner, just knowing you had reasonable voices around, I knew it would settle out. Let me ask you about “zero tolerance.” So we jump now to May. The significance of the announcement to you, to Miller, to Sessions, the message that it’s sending to the base, but then also I’m interested in when the president does back off of it, what are you thinking? What are you watching and seeing? One of my concerns with this is that, I think zero tolerance is the most humane, because I think it stops— if you’re trying to stop the cartels from this human trafficking, you should be all over—you know, a safe third-party country. You should be all over, you know, trying to stop the trafficking, human trafficking. The zero tolerance, to me, is the policy to do it. What I’m concerned about is this takes a major messaging operation. You have to explain— the American people are kind of detached from the details of what’s happening on the southern border. They’re particularly detached, I think, about the reality of what’s happening in Central America. They’re detached about, you know, this cauldron, right, that’s on the southern border, particularly how it’s been not just militarized by—particularly in northern Mexico and the cartel wars of the Mexican authorities against the cartels, but how the cartels are winning. You know, in many regards, northern Mexico and even some of the southern United States along the border, as people down there will tell you, are like Afghanistan to a degree that it’s an actual war going on and an insurgency. And so my concern at the time is that, you know, not just people hadn’t thought three moves down, but maybe the messaging is not well enough, and the battlefield’s not prepared enough to—it just kind of dropped. And understanding President Trump, President Trump is always going to respond to what he sees in the media and what—he’s a marketing guy. He’s going to— he’s going to respond. And if this thing’s not—not messaged properly, and people don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish, then I think you can have some—some blowback. And in fact, that’s what happened. And I think this is—I think this goes to the fact of not just the White House communications department, but also Stephen, Attorney General Sessions and a broader group, that you really had to think three or four moves down in order to serve the American people and to make sure that you’re doing—that you’re doing the right thing for this biblical tragedy that’s coming up from Central America and now on the southern border of the United States. But ultimately the president feels like the rollout and the public sort of criticism is messy; it’s fierce; it’s pretty aggressive. And he has to withdraw. What are you—what are you feeling at that point? That, look, it’s ultimately the right policy; that you’re going to have to do something, and the something is now, I think, going to galvanize what the real issues are. One, it’s the Mexican government. Think about where we’ve come in that time frame, since the president did back off. You now have a third-party, I think, agreement with Guatemala, which the Northern Triangle [Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador], you have to have. You’re well down the road of having one with Mexico, although you’re not there. We have this thing about, you know, they will—the asylum seekers will stay in Mexico, the “Stay [Remain] in Mexico” program that I know the courts are involved in. We’ll have to see how that plays out. The Mexican government has also brought Mexican Marines up to the—to the northern border, which has had a pretty dramatic decrease in asylum seekers. We’ve seen a pretty dramatic decrease, given other comparable time periods, here recently. So I wasn’t thrilled at the time. And the reason I wasn’t thrilled, I do believe that zero tolerance is the correct policy, right? You can’t just have unlimited, open economic migration. You have to make people go through the ports of entry. You have to stick to the political—you know, the political asylum system. And so I thought at the time it was mishandled. And it wasn’t Trump’s fault. It was the people around him who were very well intentioned, understood the policy, but maybe didn’t understand the dynamics of what was going to happen, not just from the media but from the execution. Let me ask you about the midterms and the caravans that sort of are covered around this time. My understanding is that Miller is really keeping a close eye on that, giving that information to the president. Can you take us in there a little bit? Well, you know, the caravans started coming up from Central America. And look, I thought some of the stuff was overhyped about, you know, [George] Soros is back of this or who’s in back of it. Look, what’s happening in Central America, OK, with those economies in those countries is a tragedy of biblical proportion. Nobody faults the people in Central America. I mean, it’s a horrible situation. But the solution to that, just like in Europe, the solution to North Africa is not in southern Italy. The solution to the problems, the economic problems in Central America is not on the southern border of the United States. It’s not in Texas or New Mexico or Arizona or California, you know; that—we have to find a solution there. And I think the caravans obviously became, you know, pretty dramatic, particularly some of the media coverage of it. President Trump got involved. I think the—I think the ’18 midterms were totally mishandled by the Republican Party because they did not make it a total referendum. I think we would have held the House if we had had the ground game that went out and made this a referendum on Trump’s presidency. I was advocating very early on, went on Fox, went on a lot of news shows, I went around the country with a film called Trump at War to those battleground districts— we kind of knew the 25 to 30 that were going to be in play— and made the case for Trump’s overall policies, not just focus on immigration, but do it on China, the economy and immigration, particularly is what he’s trying to accomplish. I think that part of the caravan, I think, I think got overdramatized. And I also don’t think that we did a particularly good job of empathy with the people coming up. Look, I’m as hard-line on immigration as you can possibly get, and that is to protect the sovereignty of this country, to have the rule of law, and particularly to protect—because I’m a populist— protect working-class Hispanic and African American people in these border communities and low-skilled workers. The solution can’t be on their backs, and that’s where it’s always going to be unless we solve this. And so I think that there are solutions to solve it. The first, I think, is breaking the cartels. That’s where you have to have a zero tolerance policy. But I do think that it got into too much, and what we can’t do is demonize the people themselves, right? They’re in horrible situations in these countries. We understand that, but we can’t get into the business of economic migrants, and that’s why we have to have more engagement, I think, in Central America to help sort this thing out. And the solution for these problems, to me, is on the southern border of Mexico and in the Triangle countries of Central America. Let me ask you a little bit about this—we jumped over it—but, you know, you leave at a certain point, and I wonder about that mission on immigration. Does that go with you? Does that—you know, do you find there’s more you can do outside? As President Trump says, I’m his top student. So he—look, these are core issues with Trump from the beginning. This is why he ran for president. People forget. Look, this guy’s 70 years old. He’s a multibillionaire. He’s got a great family. He’s buying championship golf courses throughout the world. I mean, this is—you know, this is not just a life well lived; this is the way that you live your best life at the end of your career. Now, for him to step into this cauldron and literally have his face ripped off every day, right, is that— he felt it was a call and a duty. A big part of that is this whole situation with mass illegal immigration. It was one of the cornerstones of the campaign, the entire immigration, the entire immigration, both the mass illegal and also the legal immigration issues. So no, this was core. I—look, I do think, when I left, and I went on the outside because I thought I had more— I took one year of my life from basically Aug. 14 to go on the campaign to Aug. 14 in the administration. I’m not a staff guy, and I felt I’d have a lot more impact—and I think I’ve had more impact. I mean, one of the things we’re doing is we have this group that’s actually building a physical wall on the southern border. Now, we’re augmenting President Trump’s program. He and the Army Corps of Engineers are building big swaths of wall, which you need, but there’s those niches in the mountains, in the deserts, that the Army Corps either can’t get to or they bypassed that you need to have built. And so I feel like I’ve been more active on the immigration issue on the outside. Now, I do admit you probably lost a little bit of the sting that I can bring to conversations, maybe some of the debates that happen internally. But you’ve got somebody that’s still there; I mean, Stephen is. And Jeff Sessions was for a long time. Remember all the problems that President Trump had, he and Sessions had, over collusion and that part of the Justice Department. If you look at somebody that is actually implementing the Trump program, Stephen Miller’s internal working group [Immigration Strategic Working Group], OK, which really got under the hood, inside the federal government, in the apparatus. And that’s why Stephen has kind of retreated from the public eye, because he’s actually running something that’s quite significant about actually getting stuff done. Jeff Sessions did the same thing. I mean, as far as the Trump agenda on immigration, he would have never had a better attorney general than he had with Jeff Sessions. I mean, those two, from the dinner we had, those two who stayed behind, at least for a while, really started to execute on the president’s plan. And that’s why I think we’ve made such tremendous strides. I mean, we’ve made huge strides on this whole immigration issue in the last couple of years, a lot of it unheralded. And that is because of Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions and the people at the working level that have made this work. Yeah. And the legacy that Sessions leaves at Justice, for instance. I mean, the amount of work that he was doing there from day one is extraordinary. Yes, I think that, I think you would say that immigration was the central organizing factor in the Justice Department to bring everything together to actually help execute on the president’s plan, I think has been extraordinary. And help me a little bit on that detail on what Stephen Miller is doing now with sort of stepping out of the public eye. I mean, we’ve tried to get to him for a few interviews for this project, and it hasn’t happened. But—but what is the mission? He still represents what you guys set out to do. Well, I think he’s accomplishing that. I think if you see—I think if you see what’s—what’s happening, all the work that’s being done, you know— and now you see it every now and again pop up into the public sphere— all of that work is coming out of the Stephen Miller working group. I mean, Stephen is a very detailed policy guy. You know, we got him on the campaign as a speechwriter. You know, speechwriter is like his third hat. He’s really—he was a policy guy. And so he really—and immigration policy has been his thing for many, many, many years. You know, so it’s—you know, at Capitol Hill, so even before he worked for Sessions. So he’s—and I think this working group he has been very effective. It’s been methodical, and it’s also been below the radar, which I think has also been very helpful. Help me understand what you guys have accomplished at this point. Well, I think if you start—look, first off, we brought border security now up to the forefront, and where he’s building the wall, there will be 500, what, 500 miles of replacement wall alone. And remember, replacement wall, they mocked Trump, said, “Oh, you’re just replacing.” Remember, the wall that was originally there, the Normandy barriers and others, were in the high-volume areas of coming across. So it’s very important to do the replacement wall, and I think they’re actually quite smart at doing that. Then he’s got all this new wall. I mean, in Trump’s administration, you’re going to have—you’re going to have a lot of the wall built, plus you have enhanced awareness by Border Patrol of border security. Also with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], you really have had a real execution on the issue of internal enforcement. And I realize that that’s been controversial, and of course Democrats want to do away with ICE, they want to do away with Border Patrol, but he’s done a real—he’s done an effective job. I don’t think they’ve quite gotten to the employees—the employers, excuse me—as they should. But I think they’ve done a very effective job. I think he’s also started to—to bring up the whole—this controversy over economic asylum, which really was not addressed in the Obama administration. Remember, they say kids in cages and all that; that all started during Obama in ’14. It was Breitbart—because Border Patrol came to us with the photographs. It was Breitbart that broke all of those stories about kids in cages were in the Obama administration. We broke it, and then, you know, CNN and Huffington Post and the BBC jumped on it right away. And so this has been going on for a while, and I think now you’re seeing some resolution of this. The whole accomplishment of the safe third party, of really getting an asylum system that works, I believe this is why President Trump—now, we got 29% of the Hispanic vote. I think President Trump, because of economic policies and his enforcement, is going to get, I believe, 40% of the Hispanic vote in 2020 because of these policies. So I think if you look at—we now have a couple of very innovative programs on legal immigration. I don’t think they’re hard-line enough, So now you really have a policy, and you have an engaged debate. And I don’t—you know, you have Durbin, you have people on the left, they have an opinion. And look, they have political power, too. But now we’re engaged in really a debate. For years and years and years and years and years we just let this drift, and you go down— everybody that watches the show should go down to the border. They should go to El Paso, they should go to the Rio Grande Valley, and they should go to some of these border towns as Americans and talk to the people in these border towns, right? And now every town in the country’s becoming a border town because of the influence of the cartels and the drugs and the human trafficking. But for many years we let this drift. And this is what I really admire about Trump, whether it’s China, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s— whether it’s immigration, he’s not going to let these problems drift. He’s a businessman. Businesspeople are into providing solutions. He’s not a politician. Politicians all talk, and they will let stuff drift. Right now we actually are engaged as a nation, and I think in 2020 it’s even going to be more of a centerpiece in the national debate, as it should be. You know, I believe— look, we’re going to—we’re going to win some, we’re going to lose some. You know, we lost in ’18. We won in ’16. That’s what a democracy’s about, but at least now it’s a fully engaged debate about what the issues are and what the stakes are, and quite frankly what direction we want to see the country go. How potent of an issue is immigration as we look to 2020? I think it’s going to be, like in 2013, going back to that dinner, where he said, “Hey, trade is number 100 and immigration is number three.” 2020 is going to be shaped, I think, by two things—by China and the trade, really the economic war in China, which brings in many elements of Iran, Saudi Arabia, all of that into one; and then immigration. And it’s really about globalization versus the nation-state. Both of these are coming down to, what is a nation? What is the sovereignty of the nation? What does it mean to be a citizen? What type of deal should you have if you are a citizen? This, to me, is going to be what the real debate is on 2020. I think it’s a great debate to have. And I think, I know people have very different opinions on this. That’s what a democracy is about. And I think that Trump is the perfect candidate for us to bring this up. And I think you’re going to see on the Democratic side, as they select somebody that comes through their primaries, you’re going to see—I think they’re going to be a little more radicalized; I think you already see this. But I think it’s a great debate to have. And to me, those two will be the central defining elements of the 2020 campaign. So last thing on immigration, this film starts off with the Embassy meeting. Now we’re seven years later, but, you know, at the point in which you look back, and you think about everything you’ve set out to do at that meeting, everything you dreamed about doing, what did you accomplish? How do you— If we had sat there that night, because the dinner went on for five hours or longer, if that night we had said that in the fall of ’19 going into ’20 we would have made this, these two issues, the centerpiece of American politics and quite frankly changed American politics— remember, American politics today, what’s going forward, you’re either going to have populist nationalism or you’re going to have populist socialism. But the populist movement—OK, which I think is great, right.? Even on the left, I’d rather have a populist than these elites of either side running things, that you have populism. And at that time it was a word nobody knew. You know, “nationalism” was like this horrible word, right? To defend the nation-state. If we had said at that dinner, “Oh, you know what? In seven or eight years, this will be the defining—this will be the nomenclature people use, and actually the trade will be number one, probably about China, and immigration number two, but both inextricably linked, because they’re, you know, they’re two sides of the same coin,” that we would be having that, and that—and that, you know, networks like PBS would be doing specials to talk about this, I would have said, “Well, then, Jeff, we’ve definitely got—you’ve definitely got to run for president.” Sessions was very wise that night. He says, “I’m not the guy, but that person will come along, and these issues will be up and manifested in that.” And I think we’ve seen that. I think we’ve seen that in American political history. I think you said that that figure was the “imperfect instrument.” Now, looking back? He’s the first—look, Donald Trump, all the grief he gets in the media, you know, he knows he has human failings like everybody else. A lot of that is the false bravado and the false front in the Trump. You know, he didn’t have to do this. It was a duty, I think he felt, and he did it for his country. He’s a patriot. And, you know, he’s not perfect. None of us are perfect. But if you look at what he’s accomplished, and particularly what I’m most proud of is the stability he’s offered— let’s talk about those times he goes back and forth. There’s still—it’s the signal and the noise. The signal is very strong that this is going to be a big issue; we’re not going to back down on it; we’re going to solve it, but we’re going to solve it in a way—his default position: We’re always going to solve it in favor of citizens. Whether those citizens are Hispanic, African American, Muslim, we’re going to solve it on the side of the citizens, OK? And that is what a nation-state is, and that is what nationalism is. And so I think his default position, although I’m sure in this film you’re going to see times he’s done it this way and that way, if you look at—that’s the noise. The signal couldn’t be stronger. And I think that’s what we’re going to come to ultimately. Look, he shifted the Overton window, right? We are now debating all the topics on Donald Trump’s turf, OK? That, in January 2013, that looked like a pipe dream. Today that’s the reality. Immigration in the way you guys were talking about it looked like a pipe dream. I mean, that was in the shadow of Gang of Eight, I mean, that you were having this conversation. … And if you go back and look at the “autopsy” report, the autopsy report, as we now know, was completely phony. It was just the typical establishment and treat the American people like they’re a bunch of morons. … So you’ve had a massive sea change, and that is because I think people started to address the American people and particularly working-class people in the Republican Party who were kind of sold this whole, you know, Heritage, limited-government, tax cuts for the Kochs, all that, and, hey, all your jobs are going overseas; your communities are flooded with illegal aliens; your health care system’s being destroyed; your education system’s being destroyed. What does it mean to get your sovereignty back and put a value on you as a citizen? That discussion has come so far than all the nonsense that you look at that the establishment was planning in 2013. And I’m very proud to have been a— someone who took a small role in actually blowing up that nonsense in defending the American people. … Why is Donald Trump the— what is it in Donald Trump’s biography makes him the perfect political candidate for the political atmosphere in 2016? … I think we’ve transitioned out of traditional politicians to more people who understand media. You know, Donald Trump is a McLuhanesque figure. And what I mean by that is he understands what Marshall McLuhan understood, is that mass communications is so overwhelming and so inextricably linked into people’s lives, you’ve got multiple screens you travel with all day long, that media now absorbs your own existence in the analog world; that it is critically important to understand mass communications and understand mass media. So he is a—it’s the reason he went through the 17- or 16-person field in the Republican primary, which, remember, was a billion dollars and 20 years in the making to get, you know—those were— that’s the finest field the Republican Party has ever had, and in every vertical, whether it’s Marco Rubio or Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, the Bushes, in that vertical you had best of class, right? Donald Trump went through that like a scythe through grass. And part of that was his understanding of immigration and China and trade. But part of that is he just understood mass communications. And he was a figure that was—knew how to connect, get rid of political nomenclature, which Obama initially started to do when Obama ran as a populist, right? People forget. You know, Obama was a fire-breathing populist when he first started running— anti-war, anti-establishment, everything Hillary Clinton stood for. The two populists took her down, Barack Obama the first time and Donald Trump the second, right, because she is the— she is the ether of the system, right, of this kind of permanent political-class globalist system. And Obama ran with that. But of course, once he got in office, I think a lot given the financial crisis, he reverted back to a lot of the neoliberal policies. Trump was a perfect—in this time and place, Trump is absolutely a perfect, a perfect vehicle, a perfect instrument, a perfect candidate, and really has been a perfect president, too, I think, in this age to kind of bring up and highlight these issues and start to bring it to resolution. He gets media; he understands social media. He’s using Twitter as almost a weapon in some ways. Help us understand. He doesn’t get media; he drives media, right? He would sit there—many times, you’d sit there, and he said, “Look at this,” hit a tweet, it’d be up on CNN in the chyron, and they’d all be talking about it. He knows how to drive the media. And the sophisticated media just bites on it like a young—like a dog, right? And they’re chasing the tire all day long. So he knows how to drive the conversation. He knows how to force them to play on his field, right? And it happens day in and day out. That’s what I mean by a McLuhanesque figure. The people in the media don’t understand this. And I realize a lot of it, you’re too—you know, every day you’re working, you’re up close to it. But even the theoreticians at the networks and the beloved New York Times and Washington Post and Wall Street Journal don’t really get it, that Trump can drive the agenda because he understands modern media, and he understands what’s disintermediated modern media, and that is Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and, quite frankly, the impromptu one-hour press conference, you know, outside of Marine One on the lawn of the White House. Yeah. I mean, the White House press briefings are a thing of the past. Yes, I think that’s—well, traditional—they may come back at some point in time, but the—you know, President— President Trump is his communications director. He’s always really been his communications director, because he knows that—we would have, I don’t want to say fights, but disagreements, and I tell people on the mass communications side he was always right; I was always wrong. I would think to do it one way, and it turns out he’s—he understands at a very deep level. When I say McLuhanesque, it is a high compliment. In the modern age, understanding how mass communications has seeped into every aspect of life, it’s one of the reasons he’s triggered so many people on the left. They can’t—you know, Trump’s everywhere. They’re living a Kafkaesque nightmare. That’s why they were so emboldened in ’18 to really go door to door, knock on doors, because they understand what the Republican establishment still doesn’t get. He is a transformative figure and a historical president. The left understands, particularly younger people on the left understand; they said Donald Trump’s going to be in their personal lives 10, 20 and 30 years from now. What he’s doing on the—what he’s doing of deconstructing the administrative state and what he’s doing to the federal judiciary, you know, Trump’s going to be— and since Trump understands mass media, he’s all over them; they can’t get away from him. And so it’s very powerful. But he definitely drives the media narrative. … Let me ask you about inauguration for a moment. This isn’t usually how things go. You know, we had done The Choice— It is Donald Trump’s presidency, right? It’s never—see, that’s right there. You’re falling into—with the rise of Obama from literally nowhere to Trump, in that decade, all the conventions of politics have changed. Yet the institutions haven’t quite got the memo yet. They still want things to go back to the way things were. So to have a guy like Trump that’s immediately going to say, “That was the biggest crowd that ever saw an inauguration”—first off, to give that speech, right, which is a fire-breathing speech, it basically torches the entire city and permanent political class, and then to argue that, “Hey, I had the biggest crowd in history,” and to make that the thing for the first day, that’s new politics. It’s definitely new politics. There’s also the Women’s March the next day. There’s these sort of lines that are being drawn in the sand in terms of the war with the press. There is—I mean, there is an incredible amount of resistance. I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t say they started on Inauguration Day. It started at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 9 when Donald Trump was announced as president by AP, as being the winner. I mean, the next morning, you’re in Trump Tower, you look down, and there’s essentially a riot in the street. I mean, people are with the pink hats, and you know, some people are trying to take the conch shells and cut up their— I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. And—and he goes by. At one time he thinks they’re supporters. You know, there are some supporters in the crowd. Generally that’s not a supporters’ crowd, right? Those are people that are not happy with the outcome. And so it started immediately. The resistance—I call it the nullification project, which was—and here’s the reason, and I think the Democratic Party and the media fell into it. The Clintons having, you know, they were looking for a landslide. Remember, the reason they didn’t put the—force the Supreme Court justice in the summer is that she wanted a more progressive pick, that Obama’s had too safe a pick. They were going to totally redo the federal judiciary. They were not just looking at the curtains in the White House; they were getting ready to change the carpets, right? These people were so—it was such a stunning—and look, it was 79,000 votes in five counties. We drew an inside straight, OK? And it was all because of those issues of immigration and trade and China that got particularly Democrats, working-class Democrats in those states. So the Clintons were totally in shock. And Hillary naturally has to have somebody else to blame it on. You know, it’s got to be Russia; it’s got to be, you know, all this interference. It’s got to be anything, but it can’t be the fault of their policies and particularly their candidate, right? And so from the beginning, the nullification project starts. And it’s—and by the time you get to Inauguration Day, it’s—it’s—it’s in full bloom. The media’s on board. That’s why you just didn’t just wave a wand and have this—have this march the next day. I think it was like a million—I think it was a million people in Washington, D.C. We went to the CIA and other places during the day, and you really had to kind of map out where you’re going just to get around the city. I mean, you’re in these motorcades. Take us in there. Are you digging in? How is the president reacting? What are you — Hey, we won; you lost. I’m like, let’s drop the hammer; let’s roll. Come on, this—look, President Trump, remember, the fight starts the very beginning. President Trump, if you look at his—if you look at his speech on the night he won, at 2:35 or 2:45 in the morning, you know, let’s say that Brother Miller and Brother Bannon had a little different first draft of that speech, which was like: “Hey, guess what? We’re going to Washington, and we’re going to burn it down. We’re going to—hey, the permanent political class, we’re going to hit you with a blowtorch. You just lost. The populist party won, and we’re going to take you guys on.” It was, if you look at it, and this is why I think it’s a speech very few people go back to, I think it’s one of Trump’s worst speeches, because he tries to bring the country—but this is—this is what the guy’s like. He’s a very magnanimous person. His whole thing is to bring the country together, that this has been a very divisive campaign and now— and have won a historic come-from-behind victory, which, remember, there were people on his campaign, right, that on Monday before the Tuesday election went around to the major networks and were walking through the math of not just why we—how much we were going to lose by, but why we were going to lose. I don’t want to name names. But the media knows who they are, OK? So it’s—and I don’t fault him. I realize—look, I was a true believer, and I thought we had a set of math that got us there. And I realize there were a lot of people that didn’t. But Trump from the beginning moment that the AP announced that he was going to win, in fact when we knew internally when the Detroit Free Press reverses their call about 11:00 or 12:00 at night, that he is going to be president, it’s—he’s about bringing the country together. There’s certain elements of his staff, of which I proudly, you know, took an office— no, no, no, no, we won, they lost, let’s—and we have the House and the Senate, let’s get on with it, right? So I think it shows that Trump is—his natural inclination is not to be divisive. His natural inclination is to actually try to bring people together. Let me ask you about the House for a second. Paul Ryan, somebody you had set your sights on back in that embassy meeting, way back when, is now suggesting health care, and is now saying it’s time to repeal and replace. So we’re in health care. Help me understand what you’re—what you’re making of it at the point when it looks like that’s going to move forward. Well, remember, we had three things. There were three things that we wanted to do right out of the box. We had America First foreign policy, right? The three legs of the stool are the America First foreign policy; the whole economic [unintelligible]; and the third element was deconstruction of the administrative state. Those are the three legs of the tripod. Inside of that, you’ve got the three elements we’re going to drive forth as the program, [which] is going to be repeal and replace Obamacare, right? That’s what the Republican—because remember we wanted a coalition. The day I showed up to the campaign in August, I reached out to Reince Priebus and [Sean] Spicer and Katie Walsh. We’ve got to get the RNC [Republican National Committee] on Mitch McConnell and— because remember, they were going to cut Trump loose in mid-August. This guy’s going to lose by 20 points. We’ve got to save the House and hopefully win the Senate. Our whole coalition was to win as a coalition. As a coalition partner, you’re going to divvy up who’s going to work on what. So the three things were, number one, repeal and replace Obamacare. Number two was a massive reordering of the tax structure—a tax cut, but even more than that; really redoing the whole tax structure of the country. And the third was infrastructure, which was the one that I was most excited about. Because of just the way Washington works and can only focus on things, it was decided early on in the transition that “repeal and replace” would actually be the lead, with taxes right behind it. Infrastructure would then follow because it would take us a while to get all three of these up and rolling. But the reason we went with “repeal and replace” first, the Republican Party— and this shows you about the establishment Republican Party and their understanding of how to govern. Their pitch was very simple: “Hey, we’ve passed this 50 times, right? We have a whole plan. We’ve worked on this forever, right? And we can just, bang, you know. We got Tom Price, and Tom Price is our guy. He’ll be your—he’ll be your HHS, and he’ll be the lead sled dog, and we’ll just come up behind him, and we’ll get this done in—we’ll have this up in 45 days, right, debating and boom, this is done. And by the Easter break we will have repealed and replaced Obamacare. We won’t do it in pieces. We’re going to do it all in one fell swoop.” You know, it came—look, there were some perturbations that came with [Sen. John] McCain’s one vote. However, you could tell—and I think we could tell pretty early on—that the reason the 50 bills were passed, they knew they were never going to get anywhere so they really weren’t—they weren’t, how do I say, totally thought through. And so you saw Ryan in this kind of, you know, situation where it’s all in fits and starts. You know, you had the Freedom Caucus fight things; you have his own thing in the House, and you’ve got the guys in the Senate. It’s not—it’s not terribly organized. That really can’t be blamed on Trump. This is one of the things the coalition party said, “We got this,” right? “And we got this.” And that was Obamacare. The second one was taxes. The— So let me ask you about taxes. Jump forward to they’re signing the tax bill, and Paul Ryan is now praising the president on the South Lawn, and there’s that united government behind him. What had changed in sort of the power differential between Paul Ryan, this president— Let’s go back to taxes, on taxes. Paul Ryan, his whole life—Obamacare is not his deal, right? Taxes are his deal. This is why I keep teasing him. He’s a guy from the Petri dish at the Heritage, right? This is a guy that thinks the budget committee is like a great way to spend your 20s, OK? Taxes were everything. In fact, when we got there, he had this whole tax plan that I kind of liked; I thought it was the most economically nationalist. And you know, he had the value-added taxes, and it had all— it was incredibly complicated, but also for seven years they had worked on this. He had his whole thing. And I see it the first night. This is in January of ’17. We fly up right after New Year’s. [Trump’s chief economic adviser] Gary Cohn, myself, Kushner, Reince, we spent five hours in a dinner in the speaker’s office. He walks through a very detailed thing of his tax plan, and I love it. But there’s one caveat. I said: “You know, you haven’t done like a thousand hits on Lou Dobbs to explain this. You just can’t roll this out.” This is so unlike anything that’s ever been done, such a massive restructuring to really go to border adjustable [sic] taxes, these kind of value-added taxes, which I think is quite strong on building and manufacturing. I said: “You’re going to have not just the Kochs; you’re going to have Walmart, all the retailers. Where do you stand in that process?” He said, “Oh, yeah, well, we’re going to start that.” And I said, “This thing’s going to be—this is going to be a tough sell to Trump,” because Trump’s going to look at this and say: “Hey, this is the kind of thing you make me hoover, right? You don’t know how this is going to turn out.” And so Ryan’s bill, his whole seven years of everything he had worked on, and the reason he had even decided to take on the speakership, was blown up by the Kochs 30 days into the administration. Remember, they start taking these ads out in the Midwest with Walmart in The New York Times, made it a Page 1 story. The donors decided that that’s not what they wanted. He totally flipped, and that’s what took us all the first year, right, until really November and December to get this done. And that was Ryan really coming over to Trump’s thinking about, this is how we have to think about this. We’re going to really do another Arthur Laffer/Reagan-type tax cut, maybe the last squeeze out of the lemon as far as that goes, but we’re going to do that. And so it’s—Ryan’s thing was shattered, and he really came on board, I think, for more of the Trump program that [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin, Gary Cohn and Trump put together. Is Trump changing here, or is Ryan learning? What’s—what’s happening? I don’t think Trump changed at all. I think Trump, from the beginning, when Trump even got a first briefing— because I thought it was very important to get him up to speed about what Ryan— because remember, this is to the core of Paul Ryan’s being. This is what Paul Ryan’s been in Washington, D.C., for: the budget and entitlements and deficits and really taxes and changing the tax code. This is why he’s been there. And even a short briefing of a distillation of the ideas—let’s say this charitably— Trump did not—we ran it up the flagpole, and the president did not salute, OK? That was going to be a nonstarter. But he didn’t even have to make it a nonstarter. The people in control of the Republican apparatus, right, people like the Kochs, right, they expressed their displeasure on this immediately. And this even shocked me more. I said, boy, you’d think Paul would have gone around and maybe got some buy-in. This thing was like in their own—there was some—it was some inner group up there, right, of kind of Heritage alumni that had concocted this thing, which, I say, I actually thought was quite innovative and could have been terrific, but it’s one of those things that you need to do years of preparing the battlefield. You need to be on Lou Dobbs. You need to be on Squawk Box. You need to be getting buy-in from Wall Street. You need to be getting buy-in from the big donors and the big corporations. And none of that work was done. When you joined the campaign, give me a sense of why you joined, where’s the campaign at that point, and what your strategy is. It’s—look, it happened in mid-August of ’16. There was this article, big article in The New York Times on a Saturday by Maggie Haberman and I think Alexander Burns that really had—it was one of these 8,000-page [sic] New York Times hit-job specials on a Saturday morning that literally just eviscerated the campaign, eviscerated Paul Manafort, his leadership, really put I think the candidate Trump in a very bad light. And we had really been with the Trump—on the Trump program from very early on, not just the Sessions-Miller side, but also at Breitbart, Government Accountability. I had lost many friends I had made in the political movement because I’m a—I was a newcomer to D.C., but people I had worked with in the Tea Party and other areas, even my partner at the time, Peter Schweizer, guys that I felt a strong kindred with, you know, I was like a cloven-hoofed devil because we thought that Trump, you know, was the solution for the country at the time. And these people were adamantly opposed to it. In mid-August it came to fruition that, you know, the campaign had some issues, and some of the donors talked to me that day. I talked to the candidate; he knew some changes had to be made. And so, you know, I went in. The one thing I did tell him, I said, to 100—he was down, I think, 12, 14, 16 points, depending on what poll you looked at. But I told him that night and reinforced it out of [Trump National Golf Club in] Bedminster on the afternoon of the 14th to 100% metaphysical certitude, “You will win if you get back and just start going back and preaching the populism and the economic nationalism that you have been preaching since you first came on this. If you—if you go back to that and get off”—at the time he was in this—in this back-and-forth with the Khan family. I said, “If we drop all that stuff, you get back to the basic and compare and contrast yourself to Hillary Clinton, a true globalist,” I said, “you’re going to win this thing. We’ve just got to get back to basics.” And it wasn’t any big strategy that I had; it was quite simply, here, you know, in the Upper Midwest, we know where these voters are. We know that there is many, many disaffected working-class voters. We know there’s many disaffected blue-collar Democrats. We know there’s tons of working-class African Americans and Hispanics who are just not buying it anymore, right? And maybe they’re not prepared to vote for Donald Trump, but hey, maybe they’re prepared to not vote for Hillary Clinton, which is a win. So we thought—I thought it was perfect. And all you had to do was get Trump on the road and put him on a big platform and let him get out there, and he would do it, because he’s a closer. And he closed. You saw all the “forgotten,” something the president at the time didn’t see or didn’t choose to see. President Obama, I think, if you go back—see, it’s a tale of two people. If you go back and look at Obama and the way he ran in the primaries in 2008, he’s a populist. I was pretty impressed. I thought you had two populists in that campaign: Obama and Sarah Palin. I kind of figured there’s Obama-Sarah Palin, you know, until the financial crisis. People forget until, I think, I think on the Gallup Poll that they were within the margin of error, maybe even up a half a point or one point because of Palin’s populist dynamism. Obama ran as a populist. He ran as an anti-war, you know, anti-foreign, you know, this whole national security apparatus of both parties, right? Remember, in the campaign—in the primary he’s criticizing the Democratic Party, you know, war machine, the Hillary Clinton of it all, right? Obviously the Republican Party, the Bush apparatus in addition, but he— many of the themes that we kind of take and take up to the next level you see not in Obama’s presidency, but you certainly see it in his—in particularly the early stages of his— of his assault on Hillary Clinton in the primaries for the Democratic Party. So I think it was, you know—I think these things are personified. Remember that on Aug. 13 and 14 of 2016, the one thing I tell at the time candidate Trump, forget all the polls; they’re not relevant, OK? People are now just making up their minds. There’s only two numbers that count—right track/wrong track, two-thirds/one-third. The country still thinks two-thirds we’re on the wrong track. If you look below the surface—this is what I was studying with [former Democratic pollster Patrick] Caddell— people admired President Obama and his wife. They like them; they like them as people, OK? But they didn’t think Obama was the agent of change that they had voted for. Pat and I had made a film in 2012 called The Hope and the Change that went to— around the country to battleground states, to Democrats and Independents and Republicans that had voted for Obama but weren’t going to vote for him before [sic]. They didn’t like [Mitt] Romney, but they weren’t going to vote for Obama because they didn’t think he was an agent of change. So that was the key number. The second was, for the first time in American history, according to Pat’s analysis, Caddell’s, that, you know, 70% of the American people believed America was in decline, right, and they thought the elites were comfortable with that, and that they were looking for a candidate that will return America to her former greatness. That is the Trump campaign, and that’s all in the Upper Midwest, right? It’s around immigration, right, the lack of control of your borders and losing your sovereignty and the shipping of the manufacturing jobs to China. Trump got this early on. Remember, I first start really watching him, although I’d met him in 2010 when he was thinking of running for president, which was, I thought, ill advised when I first started seeing him, [David] Bossie would have him to these cattle calls. And in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, I always sit in the back, and I want to—or sit towards the back. I want to watch the crowd’s response to the candidate. And when Trump came up, he wasn’t speaking any of the vernacular of the Republican Party, right? There’s no limited government. There’s no, you know, the kind of Heritage tax cut ideas. There’s none of that stuff in there. This guy’s coming up as a fire-breathing—he was like William Jennings Bryant. He’s a fire-breathing populist and nationalist, and all the folks are like, leaning into the speech. It’s just not Donald Trump the celebrity; they’re actually listening. And I sat with the mainstream media, and nobody could care—they could [sic] care less. Nobody’s following this guy. Nobody’s listening to what he’s saying in this nonpolitical vernacular. More importantly, they’re not seeing how it’s hitting working-class people in the solar plexus. That’s when I said: “Hey, this guy Trump’s got something, right? Not only does he actually kind of get it, he knows how to communicate it.” And that’s why I thought in 2016: “Hey, we’ve got 88 days to go. We’ve got plenty of time, you know. We’ve got to get—we’ve got to stop burning daylight and get on with it. But all you have to do is get back to your core themes, and all you have to do— we’ve just got to get you on these big platforms. Everything’s got to be big, right? And—and, you know, get you to Mexico, show you in commander-in-chief-type situations. If we do that, we’re going to win this.” Let me ask you about the NFL for a second. Why does he go from the political to the cultural on some of these controversies? That was very specific. That was one that he and I were on opposite sides. That was the Alabama primary, where, you know, I was, you know, backing or, you know, Roy Moore, and he was backing Luther Strange. I thought it was a terrible decision that people in the White House had gotten President Trump to back an establishment guy like Luther Strange. And Judge Moore, who I was no fan of—you know, I was for the— I was for the more populist candidate that finished third in the first round and had kind of gotten beaten. I was for the Jeff Sessions agrarian populist. But when he—when he finished third, you know, Roy Moore was the repository particularly of the evangelicals, which is such an important part of the Trump base, you couldn’t go about it. That specific instance is perfect Trump. It’s the ether of the thing. When he goes, he’s at a—he’s at a stadium. It’s in Huntsville, Alabama. I’m watching on TV. It’s a Luther Strange rally. And he goes, you know, Luther Strange comes out in a blue blazer, khaki pants, a blue oxford button-down and— and, out of place, a red MAGA hat, right? This is like a Jeb Bush clone, low energy, right? Kind of goes out there, and the whole audience, 60% of the audience is in bib overalls. They’re Roy Moore guys. And so it’s like, they’re like clapping like it’s the U.S. Open tennis final at, you know, in New York City. It’s—it’s—there’s no energy. And Trump knows that. He tries to get the guy—he shakes his hand, and he says, “Well, look, no matter how this thing turns out, if Roy Moore wins it,” and the place goes crazy. So Trump’s feeling his way. And the next thing you know, he mentions the [Colin] Kaepernick thing; the place goes nuts. And I told somebody—I’m watching, I said, “Watch this.” You can tell. He went back to it in a speech; place goes nuts again. And as you know from, I think, The New York Times reported, the next night on Saturday, he goes back to Bedminster. I think it was Jared and Kelly. He says: “Hey, you know, I was just in Alabama, and I mentioned this thing. Luther Strange’s a stiff, right? But I mentioned—I mentioned this Kaepernick thing, and the place goes crazy.” And they’re like: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe let that stay down in Alabama. Don’t mention it again.” Sunday morning, before the NFL’s game, boom, on Twitter, disintermediating the mainstream media. He lights things up. And I think he has a feel—I think he has a feel. And remember, he is, at the end of the day, what I call an old-school patriot: you know, the American flag; you know, standing for the Pledge of Allegiance; standing for the national anthem; singing the national anthem. Those kind of things mean a lot to him. And I think he took huge umbrage with the whole Kaepernick situation. But then again, he also saw that it resonated. And that weekend was a, I think, very—and also shows you how he understands mass communications. Well, and understands where the establishment is off on these things, right? Yes. Where the elites and the establishment who look down on, you know, the better part of heartland America, just misconstrued this. Remember, Colin Kaepernick, you know, it shouldn’t be lost on anybody that Nike’s— I think they just won an Emmy Award for their commercial, and he’s got a huge shoe deal, and now he’s criticizing the Betsy Ross flag. But, you know, with all the—all the hurt quarterbacks in the National Football League, he’s still unemployed. So let me jump to [Robert] Mueller for a second. Specifically, how did Trump beat Mueller at the end? What I’m specifically interested in is the report’s release and that news story and that news cycle. Ah, because there’s nothing there. I mean, it’s—it’s—it’s—once again, you look at MSNBC and Rachel Maddow. I mean, no offense, if the left was, you know, they’re all over Fox and the “fake news” of Sean Hannity and these guys. If Rachel Maddow had been a conservative and had been hyping this thing like she’s been hyping it on every element and every thing, she’d be blown out. It’s a disgrace. Look, we’re in a situation, I would argue, that’s like the 1930s. We’re in a situation globally that has never been more perilous to not just the United States but to our allies and to all freedom-loving people throughout the world, the industrial democracies, with China and North Korea, Iran, Turkey, Russia on the Eurasian land mass, now Pakistan, Venezuela. We’re in a real thing. And those stories never get, never—in Washington, on the same day, we had Corey Lewandowski go before [Rep. Jerry] Nadler’s committee, which was—and I’m a huge fan of Corey’s— but being as polite as I can be, a total circus, and just an embarrassment, right, that Congress would be doing this. At the same time, [pro-democracy student activist] Joshua Wong and the kids from Hong Kong are [testifying], and not once—I think C-SPAN 3 was there. Not one group followed it. That shows you how out of sync the system is. Trump, I think, wanted—one, he understands mass communications. Number two, it turned out to be a nothing burger. And I think that’s why—but—but God bless the Democrats and the media. Even with the report, they’ve got to double down after that. They’ve got to bring poor Bob Mueller, who was a revered figure in this town as the FBI director, a revered figure, even after having this kind of—this report, they’ve got to bring him for his testimony, which I thought was very unfair to him personally. And of course, you saw what happened with that. So I think how Trump won it, first of all, there was nothing there. And then Trump, you know, Trump was able to use his mass communications skills to kind of put it in a box. So last question is: Looking to 2020, help us understand how divided we are right now. It’s as divided—the country is as divided as any time, I think, before the Civil War, even more than Vietnam… I also don’t think that is a problem. And the reason is, we’re a democracy. People have different ideas of what—what the direction of the country should be. Some people—and I’m a big believer that modern capitalism has failed working-class people and particularly millennials. Remember, millennials—I say all the time—are nothing more than 19th-century Russian serfs, you know. They’re better fed; they’re better clothed; they have more access to information, right? But at the end of the day, they don’t own anything, and they’re not going to own anything. And part of that is because of Obama’s, you know, policies on— on quantitative easing and all this flooding of the zone of liquidity to bail out the hedge funds and the banks, and, still, Wall Street is very, very powerful. It’s powerful in the Trump administration. Nobody will really debate that. And so I think that is why the country’s divided, because people have different— you know, right now you have populist nationalism, which is about deconstructing the administrative state. You have populist socialism, wants the state to be more involved in that. People are very—you have these cultural issues that people are very passionate about. It’s one of the great things about America. Hey, you know, we won in ’16; the progressives won, and they won big, in ’18, and we’re going to see in ’20… It’s only going to get nastier. Trump, you know, not just his policies but Trump himself, triggers people, right? He particularly triggers— I think that’s why a million people showed up with the pink hats on the Saturday after his inaugural. It’s only gotten worse; it hasn’t gotten better. ’20 is going to be a very divisive, very tough fight. I think either side that wins is going to be—I don’t think right now, the way I see it, you’re not going to know until late in the evening of Nov. 3 or early in the morning of Nov. 4 of 2020 of how this comes out. It’s going to be hard fought, and it is going to be nasty. And I think people just have to be, you know, understand that this is the way democracies are. It’s not going to—you’re not going to—we’re not going to have— you’re not going to hug this out; you’re not going to have a group hug. But it’s—I think it’s going to be a tough one. But I also think it’s going to be quite exciting. And since Donald Trump’s involved, it will be—it will be—every day will be a new episode. And as you say about Trump being so divisive, but Obama, too. Obama is a big part of this film, is that this great uniter that we sort of see, over his political arc, becomes the great divider as people respond to that administration and the bailout, TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program], Obamacare. I do think there were special circumstances. Like I said, I think you have to—you have to bifurcate Obama. I think if Obama had been the populist that he ran on in the primaries, defeated Hillary Clinton, you’d have a very different outcome. Remember, and, you know, Obama—it’s just like Trump didn’t cause North Korea, Afghanistan, China or Venezuela; this was all dumped on him by all the geniuses, right? Obama didn’t cause the financial collapse, the worst we’ve had. That financial collapse where the secretary of the Treasury and the head of the Federal Reserve walk into Bush’s office and say, “Hey, we need”—at 10:00 in the morning and say, “Hey, we need a trillion dollars in cash by 5:00 or the financial system of the United States is going to collapse.” Something that Nazis, the fascists, the communists, the military junta in Japan, nobody could do, we did to ourselves, right? So I think he then reverted to—not being a finance guy, you know, [Timothy] Geithner and the establishment, the Wall Street clique that essentially runs the Democratic Party, that never gave it up, you know, nurtured him to a solution. His solution was to bail out the guys that caused it, right? That’s what made him a divisive figure. It just wasn’t culturally. The whole Tea Party is a natural—look, every time you have financial collapse, you always have a populist reaction. It’s like night follows day. That’s when I knew early on. I wasn’t involved in politics. I knew that financial collapse, the Tea Party, boom, it starts, and I said, that’s it right there. That would never have come up if Obama had stuck to his populism. Remember, Obama became, you know— look, the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve on the day in Bush’s, you know, the meltdown was $880 billion. When Donald Trump, you know, eight years later, nine years later takes the oath of office, it’s $4.5 trillion. That essentially all came on Obama’s watch. That is the reason we have all the inequality, all the disparity. Everything that—that not just Bernie Sanders but particularly Elizabeth Warren is running on right now is a reaction to that. And that’s why I think you’re seeing now, everyone’s saying, “Hey, we’re not hugging up on Obama; you’re not loving up on Obama in these—in these primaries, the Democratic Party.” It’s just like why Trump won, the right track-wrong track. People admire and like President Obama, right, and they admire and like his wife, right? But they don’t think he was an agent of change, and here’s why: He was not an agent of change. He exacerbated what the problems were. Now, part of that was he’s not a finance guy; he’s not a business guy; he’s a constitutional professor. You’re in a crisis, and this was a true crisis, OK? You know, people like [Ben] Bernanke or people—and Hank Paulson are not people who panic, said, “Oh, if we don’t solve this like, today, the American financial system’s going to collapse.” This is what they told Bush. “It’s going to collapse in 72 hours. The world financial system is going to collapse a week later, and you’re going to have global anarchy and chaos. Oh, and guess what? Goldman Sachs and General Electric are— their lawyers are in conference rooms right now drawing up the bankruptcy documents. You’re going to wipe out every pension fund, every”— So you can understand contextually how you have to feel your way through it. But Obama was divisive because he’s not a populist. Obama ran as a populist and then flipped. And he governed as an establishment figure. That underlying tension in what we see today—let’s leave the cultural issues aside— the division is between populist nationalism and populist socialism, right? What is the ultimate solution? But at least the one thing I do like about it, because there’s an awful lot of what Elizabeth Warren says I like, right? Because quite frankly, she’s—she’s—she’s taken it from Donald Trump’s playbook, that at least we’re now back to how do citizens get a fair shake, right? How do we stop taking care of the elites in this country, and how’s the middle class—? I mean, essentially, what a lot of what they’re saying on the left, particularly about the budget, except this thing about modern monetary theory, is just, “Hey, we had quantitative easing for the elites to bail them out; how about a quantitative easing for the little guy?” And so that’s why I think, even though we’re still divided, right, and culturally we’re divided because Trump’s I think trying to put through a system of solutions, that Obama was divisive for the simple reason that he gave up on all his populist, and particularly the war stuff, he gave up all his populist tendencies and basically became—you know, Barack Obama is a very establishment figure.


  1. This interview was conducted with FRONTLINE during the making of our two-part documentary series “America's Great Divide.”

    Watch Part One here: and Part Two here:

  2. Hillbilly intellectual trips into success. Easiest man in th world to con is another con. Haha. “And here’s what’s interesting haha”. The American people…The American people… the American people… haha.

  3. I HATE both political parties in DC but this man understands the plight of the working class in America today….may Mr. Bannon's influence in politics continue to benefit real Americans like me. Thank you sir!

  4. Is it just me, or was the Mueller investigation and circus a slide of hand for Sessions to focus on implementing immigration policies while the media has people chasing squirrels? No different than forcing federal judges through the senate.

  5. Best political consultant I have ever heard and wants the best for our Country. I hope you are working on 2020 for Our President, Steve. Thank you for all you do!

  6. Building a wall at the full stop of empire like Hadrian is not the way forward. America needs to understand their revolution was not against a tyranny. It needs to export the central ideas of freedom to South America not at the point of a gun but will all the force it can muster. Forget the middle East your self sufficient in oil. You already have all the ideas.

  7. The President's defense team just lost. The smug and arrogant Jane Raskin, (does anyone have a bobby pin), just blew it for them. Watch her footage again. And Miss Bondi's performance was par for her course . . . which is to say she should not be there.

  8. That man is living in his own world and doesn't understand the implications of what his world would harm the real world.
    He talks about Trump like a savior but doesn't say a word about trump's corruption and other crimes. This administration is the most corrupt ever!
    And the journalist doesn't ask him about the impeachment. No. This is not a good interview.

  9. google just showed thaer true colors buy eirasing my commet . that mite show my true colors,and my suport for the trump team.

  10. Breaking up the Cartells is impossible in the current economical system but possible under different macroeconomic circumstances.

    The only way to do so, is to annihilate the demand.
    As long as American citizen are thirsty to feel the love of their mother (heroin), are trying to drown anxiety or depression (xanny,mdma) or need to hustle and keep awake (amphetamines /crystal) the price they are ready to pay to get that feeling is not a question.
    And of course the rocks ❄️ is a favourite choice for the wealthy for serval reasons and purposes.

    So America is sick, don't blame the people in middle and South America to get a few bucks and organise themselves for the chaos that America brought to them the last 100 years.

    I don't get that logic.
    But I understand addiction because I understand power.

  11. I have kids too, so lets just open the welfare gates to ALL 1 Billion potential migrants?
    Maybe better to provide incentive for the top .1% intelligent, talented leaders IN third world countries to stay put! and pay them 10x their current salary to stay put and lead their shit hole countries out of their shit holes. It would be a hell of a lot more efficient and effective than rebuilding them, going to war with their despots, or paying them to migrate and sit in first world economies (like Germany) doing nothing but collecting freebies and raping young girls, don't ya think?

  12. It's clearly evident why this country is where it is. Almost every other comment is, "why is he wearing 3 shirts"? "All that money and he camt buy better teeth"? Really?
    You dumb asses want to tolerate the most destructive things to this country amd then throw a hissy fit over dudes wardrobe?
    Grow the fuck up, listen to the man, amd learn something.

  13. Okay, this guy thought about it but when he illustrates Trump's objectives and achievements he is trying to "trump"us too with repetitive statements of the same same old same old

  14. Oh No!
    One of the most articulate dudes ever is being interviewed by an incompetent hack unused to not having a D in her mouth.

  15. Manipulative. The pirouettes he's taking to try to legitimise populism and nationalism are impressive. But not less of a fascism enabler. Would listen to him however anytime 10/10, compared to listening Trump this is exquisite. Nevertheless, props to PBS for these pieces.

  16. Trump did not know enough people. For political purposes, Trump has had to appoint some bad people in important positions. He gets rid of them when he can. Trump has appointed a few very good people, like Peter Navarro, Barr. As a billionaire in his 70’s, Trump does not need this shit. He works for free. Only a strong person, like Trump, could put up with this swamp shit. America needs Pogroms.

  17. The people of Ukraine talked about Biden years ago and America said nothing. Now they will say something after they find out that billions were stolen and transferred to China and to the clinton foundation. Get ready Amerika


  19. X-Files. If only the "blind" could "see"…

    Opposite of "inspiring" earthling poets, artists, musicians, mystics, human beings and creators of joy…are the ignorant (dead), joy sucking, control freaky counting corpses (vampires).

    Starships like the Enterprise are primitive. The anti-love, anti-christ called Count ing Dracula (Trump) and his crew of control freaky counting corpses (vampires) are using a darkship called the Whitehouse to suck the joy out of life and devour the planet like a ravenous cancer.

    And the evangelical counting corpses (vampires) are hiding behind the robe of truth (love) to do it. The truth said with the wrong intent is worse than all that lies invent.

    Big, empty, brain numbing, soul sucking numbers measure the amount of ignorance (greed/hate) that a black hole in space called ego posses. Not brilliance.

    A booming economy measures the rapid rate at which Counting Dracula (Trump) and his crew of evangelical counting corpses (vampires) are sucking the joy out of life and devouring the planet. Not intelligence.

    Ignorance (greed/hate) is bliss for the evangelical counting corpses (vampires). But not much fun for the earthling human beings (hearts/love) who they are sucking the joy out of.

  20. Anyone who would spend one minute with Steven Miller and say he liked this sick human monster is a psycho. He is worse than Bannon as far as being an evil racist mental case. Both belong in an institution on serious meds. The comments below show how good he is at convincing people that he is sane and reasonable. Sure, he is articulate and likable at times, but deep down, he is one of the most dangerous men to ever be in the White House. The bullshit about caring about the American people is a fake cover of the true agenda. Now, in February of 2020, we can see the true plan to fuck over the country and make the rich richer. The past 3 years have proven than his hero Trump is of the most ignorant, uninformed, racist, hollow, petty people who ever was in office. This guy is the modern P.T. Barnum.

  21. STFU about the border if you don't live here. It's not a "cauldron." All the militarization down here is done by the feds.

  22. Populist Nationalist or Populist Socialist take your pick. But the days of the media telling us who to vote for are ending. Quid Pro Joe Biden will fail despite being chosen by the elite. Bernie Sanders will rise and the DNC will do everything within its power to stop the populist candidates from taking power. That is why we have the impeachment of President Trump on the right and the rigging of the 2016 democratic primary by Hillary and the DNC. Now the rigging of Iowa in 2020. If the populist socialist ever get in office the bad policy of socialism will strengthen the Populist Nationalist movement even more.

  23. The opposite of unity is diversity. we are the United States ,not the Diverse States. the lunatic left is trying to change what America is and their ideology is a big fat failure. Multicultural is another big flop. There is one culture in America, OURS. Immigration ceased to be good for America in the mid 1960's when the immigration laws that worked were changed. We used to be a nation of immigrants, however, for many decades we have been a nation of citizens. Immigration is NOT important for America and in fact it has proved to be a major problem. The giant number of people flowing in year after year is ridiculous. when immigration was good for the usa the cap was 50,000 a year. There are too many people in America now and too much poverty. By now, after more than 100 years of evolving, and the massive financial growth there should be NO poverty in America. The answer now is STOP, pull the plug and clean up the immigration mess without adding more to it every singe day. The resident had the right idea when he campaigned but he didn't suspend immigration altogether like he should have. And he still should now. We need a government that foresees the problems and stops it before it does damage. Politicians are useless, incompetent buffoons.

  24. Obama and I are the same age. I’m in business and he’s in politics. At 30 years of age my net worth was less than a million- his net worth was like $100 k tops. Now at 58 with two successful businesses my family is upper middle class but Obama is a BILLIONAIRE. That’s the corruption in the system.

  25. Automation is responsible for 80% of manufacturing job loss this century – 4 million. Not trade and immigration, automation.

  26. QuantattivEasing is a crime against hard working people save their money. It's very wrong that it is still being doing. It hurts so many people and it makes a lie of our sucessfull exonomy. Hard working people are punished by it. Moral crime. President Trump should run our country without Quantatative easing or make speech about it, justifyine it completely.

  27. Bannon Admits Trump's Cabinet Nominees Were Selected To Destroy Their Agencies.

    At CPAC this week, Stephen Bannon, the Chief Advisor and intellectual left behind the Twittering infant that sits in the Oval Office, provided a little glimpse of the future he has planned for all of us.

    In the clearest explanation for why nearly all of Trump's cabinet choices are known mostly for despising and attacking the very Federal agencies they've been designated to lead, Bannon explained—in very clear language–that they weren't appointed to lead these agencies, but to destroy them:

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  28. Thank you for the clear explanations. I could not, could not __ understand why in the world Obama did the bailouts. That still makes me mad. The taxpayers took those massive hits. Still hate it. It was the prime opportunity to strong bargains for change: fuel efficient cars, better mortgages, increased home ownership, more jobs, and insurance policies and a whole lot more. Completely wasted opportunity!! And the biggest give away yet – massive golden parachutes for poor performance. Terrible.

  29. The DT we see in social media and in MSM sounds like a different DT than the one Bannon talks about in these PBS interviews.

  30. I didn’t know Bannon till recently and was already impressed but now I’m also impressed that PBS recorded this brilliant interview. If I was Trump, I would bring him back! I don’t think Trump would have been elected without this brilliant masterful man! I love this man!

  31. interesting but strangely vulnerable guy.Certainly likeable I guess. Trumps old style patriotism simply the bullying of a weak man. Sad.

  32. I am NOT posting this as a right leaning person I want to tell you logical thinking former blue dog Democrats out there. You need to listen to what he's saying. That said….Union leadership…You need to listen to what he is saying. I quit SEIU last year. I told them in a very friendly coherent way why. Wages. We are paid 70% of what our comparable positions are paid in adjacent counties. Climbing pay. Every private company pays a bonus to anyone that has to climb towers over a certain footage. We don't get that through our contract. The cultural marxists are intentionally trying to destroy our society. It's laid out there for anyone to see through Yuri Bezmenov. My former union laid out their bargaining goals for this period. Everything was social justice. Nothing about a COLA They are disconnected from those that pay dues to them,

  33. Bannon IS a patriot; wish he had a weekly/daily podcast– at least through the Election. He might help build some tentative bridges, or at least describe what one might LOOK like. EXCELLENT JOURNALIST. Quiet and let him talk, but asked good questions designed to elicit information, NOT biased.

  34. What is the point of listening to this interview when this racist hate monger prefaces his comment with: "So he (trump) is on anything immigration: on the wall, on assylum, on you know Gaming the System" blablah blah… He looks at this thing wholistically…"
    When you tar all imigrants with the filthy, racist brush of "Gaming the System" you announce your prejudice up front and should be disregarded and chastized for the racist you've exposed yourself to be.

  35. If President Trump is so concerned about mass illegal immigration then why doesn't he deploy E-Verify and fully enforce it? If employers got hit with massive fines for hiring illegals, no one would have to worry about deporting them. Also why can't we militarize our border? If we were under attack by an enemy combatant, are you trying to say that would be a Border Patrol issue? Come on now! LOL

  36. It hilarious because it feels like frontline feels like they shit the bed on the first interview so they tried for a 2nd and still couldn’t though one by Bannon! Or… they are turning over a new leaf and are looking to do real journalism! Great interview

  37. Hes exactly right about the problem stemming at the countries south of the mexican border. We should figure out how to help those countries which could turn the problem of immigrants wanting to leave.

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