Bannon, Jared and Russia

Counselor to the President of the United States, Steve Bannon, left, talks with White House senior advisers Jared Kushner, right, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Here’s one thing to consider as Steve Bannon leaves the White House. There’s hardly anyone in the close Trump orbit who hasn’t been tripped up in some way by the Russia investigation. There’s one big exception: Steve Bannon.

Obviously I don’t know all the ins and out of the Russia probe. The Mueller operation has been extraordinarily tight. But I keep pretty close tabs. Look at all the stories. Bannon’s name basically never comes up. As far as I know he hasn’t even hired a lawyer in the probe. Why is this? My best guess is the most obvious one: for whatever reason he just wasn’t involved. There has been a persistent claim that Russian operatives were amplifying far-right news memes through the election. They also clearly seeded a number of stories into the far right news stream. But absent some kind of tangible coordination that’s not going to be something a criminal probe can take any real cognizance of.

What I do know is that long before most of us (I include myself) had much idea that Jared Kushner might end up being a key figure in the Russia probe, Steve Bannon seemed to know he would be. Indeed, way back when it briefly seemed that Trump might fire Bannon in the Spring, Bannon seemed to know that reports of Kushner consolidating power in the White House were greatly exaggerated and that he’d be fine. Why? Again, because of Russia. To paraphrase Roger Stone, he seemed to know that it would soon be Jared’s time in the barrel.

How did he know? I got no idea. But he did. I figure people in the close, close inner circle all knew. That’s just a surmise on my part. But if he knew that I bet he knows a lot more. Maybe he doesn’t know what happened back in 2016 – remember, he joined the campaign pretty late. But there’s quite a lot that’s gone on during the presidency – covering up, business deals, Oval Office meetings. There’s a lot.

Bannon probably knows a lot that could be big trouble for Trump. But would he hurt Trump like that? Who knows? Initial reports suggest otherwise: What we’re hearing is that he and Breitbart want to go to war with the ‘globalists’ – some mix of the Jews, the former Democrats, the generals and perhaps basically everyone who’s still left.

But here’s the last part of the puzzle and it’s a key one. Back in early summer, Bannon seemed to have the idea that Kushner could and would take the fall for Russia. He was dirty and, if he could be jettisoned, the White House and Trump could be walled off from the damage.

That always struck me as zany.

First of all, the distinction between “you sold your country out to Russia” and “your son-in-law and top adviser sold your country out to Russia” is a distinction I suspect would be lost on many voters. Even beyond that and more importantly, I tend to doubt that Jared’s dirty on this front and Trump isn’t. Regardless, that seemed to be Bannon’s way of looking at it: that Kushner would go down for Russia and that his going down for Russia would or at least could protect Trump.

If that’s still his way of looking at it – and some initial reports are not inconsistent with that read – we could all be in for a pretty bumpy ride.

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