Reports: Trump Weighing Major Shakeup That Could Ax Priebus, Bannon

Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon, left, walks with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, right, to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The clash between the many rival power centers in President Donald Trump’s White House may finally be coming to a head.

According to twin reports out Friday from Axios and the Wall Street Journal, Trump is fed up with palace intrigue stories about his top aides and is considering removing his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

The timing of potential Priebus and Bannon exits, as well as who would replace them if they departed the White House, was unclear from the reports. Of course, Trump is famously mercurial and could just as quickly decide to keep both men on board as dismiss them.

Both sites reported that Trump’s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is under consideration to replace Priebus. Unnamed White House advisers also told Axios that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and two far lesser-known Trump allies, Blackstone Group’s Wayne Berman and American Continental Group’s David Urban, are other possibilities.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters adamantly denied the reports in a statement to Time’s Zeke Miller, calling it a “completely false story.”

“The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the President’s aggressive agenda forward,” Walters said.

The first sign that Bannon’s favor may be fading came Wednesday with the sudden announcement that he was being removed from the National Security Council’s Principals’ Committee. While foreign policy experts cautioned that move alone wasn’t enough to assume Bannon’s role was diminished, given his continued access to the President, the rumor mill that has Bannon on the outs kicked into overdrive over the past 48 hours.

Several reports citing anonymous White House aides surfaced in that time period describing bitter fighting between Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner.

Others, like this Friday Washington Post story, claimed that Bannon was the one considering a departure, preferring the free-wheeling, knives-out strategy of campaigning to his new buttoned-up reality in the White House.

As the Post reported, “One friend said he hates attending meetings, bemoans the need to frequently wear suits, and finds the government bureaucracy stifling.”

Bannon has dismissed stories about an impending departure as “100 percent nonsense.”

Both he and Priebus also played key roles in the failed effort to push through a House bill to repeal Obamacare last month.

This post has been updated.

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