As President Trump returned on Thursday to old accusations that foreign powers are cheating America on trade, it looked as if Steve Bannon – on the ropes for a number of weeks – might have a new lease on life within the administration.
“He’s manically focused on these trade issues,” Bannon told The New York Times. Skepticism of free trade was a hallmark of Trump’s White House bid, and was seen as part of the nationalist departure from Republican orthodoxy that Bannon helped engineer.
The president’s executive order called for an investigation into whether China or South Korea were engaged in unfair trade practices in their exporting of steel.
Before the executive order announcement, the West Wing’s moderates – including Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner – seemed to be outmaneuvering the nationalists on economic policy and overall influence.
The president referred to Bannon as a “guy who works for me,” bragged that he was his own strategist and did nothing to tamp down rumors that Bannon soon might find himself booted out of the West Wing.
But as his polls sink and his administration seems unmoored, Trump might be returning to the red-meat message on the economy and trade partners that proved so popular in the heartland.