Donald Trump’s decision to bring on former Breitbart News chair Steve Bannon as chief executive of his campaign in August 2016 seemed like a last-ditch tactic for a foundering presidential bid. Bannon was known to most people at the time as a conservative bomb-thrower in charge of a news site that served as refuge for those who found even Fox News too moderate. He did not seem like the kind of operative who could steer a controversial candidate to the Oval Office.
Joshua Green, senior national correspondent at Bloomberg Businessweek, posited otherwise in an October 2015 profile characterizing Bannon as “the most dangerous political operative in America.”
In the 21 months since, Trump won the presidency and promoted Bannon to the position of chief White House strategist. Green’s new book, “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency,” covers the gradual convergence of Trump’s and Bannon’s personal and political trajectories.
Here are some of the most eyebrow-raising anecdotes in Green’s new book.
Bannon was panicked by the thought that Paul Ryan might steal the nomination at the 2016 GOP convention
Bannon pulled out all the stops at Breitbart to undermine House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) chances of stealing the nomination from Trump at the Republican National Convention in July 2016.
The possibility that Ryan might swoop in and become the party nominee “sent Bannon into a panic of his own,” according to Green. Bannon employed longtime Ryan nemesis Julia Hahn, a writer at Breitbart, to smear the House speaker’s reputation ahead of time.
According to Green, Bannon also waged his assault-by-epithet aloud in Breitbart’s Washington, D.C. headquarters: He described the House speaker as “a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation,” a conservative think tank Bannon said was too close to the “globalist donor class.”
Trump exploded at former campaign chair Paul Manafort after deciding to demote him
After Trump decided to demote his campaign chair Paul Manafort, who drew negative attention to the campaign as reporters scrutinized his previous work for Ukrainian politicians with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump blew up at Manafort over a New York Times report that portrayed the candidate as intractable and inarticulate.
“How can anybody allow an article that says your campaign is all fucked up?” Trump shouted at Manafort, according to Green.
Trump demanded to know whether aides thought they had to make television appearances to communicate with him.
“You think you’ve gotta go on TV to talk to me?” Trump shouted. “You treat me like a baby! Am I like a baby to you? I sit there like a little baby and watch TV and you talk to me? Am I a fucking baby, Paul?”
Trump unloaded the grievances after deciding to decrease Manafort’s role and bring on Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway and Bannon, then executive chair of Breitbart, as campaign manager and campaign CEO, respectively.
Bannon drew inspiration from rabid World of Warcraft fans
Bannon drew inspiration from what he called the “monster power” of “rootless white males” who frequented websites about the massive online game World of Warcraft, according to Green.
Bannon joined a Hong Kong company that bought and sold virtual currency and goods within World of Warcraft’s virtual economy for real-world money, a practice known as “gold farming.” The company sustained steep losses after irate gamers pushed for World of Warcraft’s publisher to shut down the accounts of players engaged in gold farming, and one fan filed a class-action lawsuit against the company.
Bannon “began to wonder if those forces could be harnessed and, if so, how he might exploit them,” according to Green.
“It was the pre-Reddit,” Bannon said.
Bannon was no fan of prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer
Bannon rejected the idea of being associated with Richard Spencer, who leads the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist organization. He dismissed Spencer as a self-promoting “freak” and a “goober,” according to Green.
Trump’s public feud with Megyn Kelly was prompted by segments on his ex-wife’s rape allegations
A week before the first Republican primary debate, Trump’s circle grew concerned about former Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s coverage of his ex-wife Ivana’s allegations that Trump raped her (she later said she did not want her description “to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense”).
Kelly “was something of a wild card” to Trump’s network, according to Green, and did multiple segments before the debate on the Daily Beast’s report on the allegations, some of which focused on Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.
Cohen railed against the Daily Beast’s reporter, made vague threats and called the news site “a joke.”
He also claimed there was “very clear case law” invalidating the allegations, though there is not.
“By the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse,” Cohen wrongly claimed. “You’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody.”
Kelly in November 2016 hypothesized that her coverage of the allegations prompted Trump’s vicious animus toward her, vitriol apparently matched by Bannon’s own.
Breitbart published a series of articles critical of Kelly after she pressed Trump during the debate on his treatment of women. When former network CEO Roger Ailes asked him to relent, Bannon told Ailes, “Fuck that.”
According to Green, Bannon later called Kelly “pure evil,” warned Ailes that she would “turn on” him “one day,” and promised to “unchain the dogs” with regard to his attacks on Fox News, capping off his response to Ailes by telling him, “Go fuck yourself.”
Chris Christie sunk his chances with Trump in one fell swoop on election night
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) made the “ultimate mistake” on election night when he offered Trump — a self-identified germophobe — use of his cell phone for President Barack Obama’s congratulatory call in case Trump won, according to an unnamed witness Green cited.
“The President talked to me earlier,” Christie told Trump, according to Green. “If you win he’s going to call my phone, and I’ll pass it over to you.”
“Hey, Chris, you know my fucking number. Just give it to the President,” Trump replied. “I don’t want your fucking phone.”
Christie’s luck did not turn in the months to come.
More than 20 of Bannon’s relatives attended Trump’s election night party
Bannon’s father Martin was one of more than 20 relatives present at Trump’s election night event at the Hilton Midtown in New York, according to Green. One made the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek the next day, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap and pointing at the camera.
Best Campaign 2016 finalist: @BW’s “We Got This” November 14, 2016, split covers #bestmagcovers pic.twitter.com/YrKz09Tgn5
— ASME (@ASME1963) February 8, 2017
The relative in question was Bannon’s nephew Sean, according to Green, who Bannon described affectionately as a “total fucking hammerhead.”