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First Read's Morning Clips: Bannon Digging In

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, April 19, 2017Carolyn Kaster / AP

TRUMP AGENDA: Sources: Bannon feels like he’s on safe ground

From NBC’s Kristen Welker and Adam Edelman: “People close to Steve Bannon tell NBC News he feels on safe ground amid White House infighting stemming from President Donald Trump’s divisive response to the violence in Charlottesville. Bannon, who has rarely given on-the-record interviews since assuming his position as Trump’s chief White House strategist, reached out to speak with three news outlets in the past 48 hours, using those conversations to criticize colleagues, threaten to fire others and appearing to relish the ongoing national racial tensions. His comments signal that Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, is digging in for the long haul amid the turmoil and turnover that has roiled Trump’s cohort of top advisers in recent weeks.”

Benjy Sarlin, on Trump’s mention (again) yesterday of an apocryphal story about an American general executing dozens of Muslim prisoners in the Philippines and defiling their bodies with pig blood.

Breaking last night in the New York Times: “James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the son of a frequent ally of President Trump’s, condemned the president’s performance after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League. In an email on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times and confirmed as authentic by a spokesman for Mr. Murdoch’s company, the Fox scion gave an extraordinarily candid statement against the white supremacist sentiment that swept through Virginia last weekend. It was also the most outspoken that a member of the Murdoch family has been in response to the week’s events.”

Bob Corker told reporters yesterday that Trump “recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation.”

And GOP Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican, told Vice that Trump’s “moral authority is compromised.”

“Inside the White House, Trump advisers said the president is being guided chiefly by his own instincts, chafing at critical news coverage of his handling of the Charlottesville protests and charges of racism,” writes the Washington Post. “Bannon — a hard-line nationalist whose position has been threatened in recent days by his clashes with moderate colleagues and his blunt remarks to a liberal magazine — has fiercely defended Trump in internal staff discussions, according to White House officials.”

POLITICO: “Senior Republicans on Capitol Hill fear President Donald Trump’s eagerness to fight a Confederate-tinged culture war and his attacks on fellow Republicans are squandering precious political capital and imperiling their agenda in Congress.”

A former Trump booster is calling it quits, writing in the New York Times: “It is now clear that we were deluding ourselves.”

The Washington Post: “The White House on Thursday took the unusual step of saying that National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn would not resign, trying to contain the fallout from President Trump’s controversial comments about the deadly riot in Charlottesville over the weekend and his assertion that “very fine people” were protesting alongside neo-Nazis. Cohn, who funded the Cohn Jewish Student Center at Kent State University in 2009, was mortified by Trump’s comments, three people close to him said, and he has been bombarded with calls from friends asking him if he will leave.”

The ACLU will no longer defend hate groups protesting with guns.

Three big fundraisers are backing out of plans for events at Mar-a-Lago.

Jeff Flake writes in a New York Times op-ed: “We Need Immigrants With Skills. But Working Hard Is a Skill.”

The New York Times: “As corporate chieftains on a White House advisory panel debated on Wednesday on whether to disband, a few spoke up in favor of sticking with President Trump. They made their case in terms of business self-interest, patriotism and pragmatism… But they were lonely voices.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Battle over Confederate monument plays out in Virginia

The New York Times: “Well before Mr. Trump’s rise, a pair of Western states — Arizona and Nevada — foreshadowed some of the consuming clashes of his presidency, over the definition of conservatism and the struggle for power between diverse, booming cities and far-flung rural precincts. But both states have emerged anew this year as a defining battleground for both parties, in no small part because of Mr. Trump’s thirst for vengeance against Republicans who have crossed him.”

IN-SEN: POLITICO gets its hands on Todd Rokita’s fussy instructions for his district drivers.

OH-GOV: Columbus City councilwoman Liz Brown, Sherrod Brown’s daughter, has endorsed Nan Whaley for governor.

MO-SEN: The Kansas City Star: “U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill accused Missouri’s top law enforcement officer, who is weighing a campaign against her, of violating a state law that requires the attorney general to reside in Jefferson City.”

VA-GOV: From one of us(!): “This year's competitive gubernatorial contest in Virginia could very well serve as a referendum of sorts on the controversy over Confederate monuments.”