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Steve Bannon Touts Trump's 'Economic Nationalist Agenda'

by Benjy Sarlin /  / Updated 
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R) and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon (L) participate in a conversation during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center on Feb. 23, 2017 in National Harbor, Md.Alex Wong / Getty Images

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Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon, the White House’s much-scrutinized top two aides, lavished each other with praise on Thursday in a friendly panel discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference where Bannon laid out President Donald Trump's "new political order."

The two found common ground bashing the press, which they complained had not given Trump sufficient credit for his achievements and failed to understand the president's goals.

“They’re corporatist globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like President Trump has,” Bannon said.

Bannon described Trump’s agenda as a continuation of his campaign platform and would emphasize the "deconstruction of the administrative state." He said recent executive orders on travel, border security and deportations signaled that "the rule of law is going to exist when you talk about our sovereignty and you talk about immigration."

"Every day in the Oval Office he tells Reince and I: 'I committed this to the American people, I promised this when I ran, and I’m going to deliver on this,'" Bannon said.

While he acknowledged gaps between different factions of conservatism, Bannon described a united front behind a "new political order."

"I think the center core of what we believe, that we're a nation with an economy — not an economy just in some global marketplace with open border — that we're a nation with a culture and a reason for being, and I think that's what unites us and I think that's what's going to unite this movement," he said.

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Priebus argued Trump's choice of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court and his orders to reduce regulations were among his most significant moves and deserved more attention.

Bannon also cited Trump's decision to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he said was the start of a new push to cultivate "bilateral trading relationships with people that will reposition America in the world as a fair trading nation."

There are major policy implications at stake to the Bannon-Priebus partnership.

Trump has yet to unveil a complete policy prescription for health care, immigration, taxes, and legal immigration, among other topics, all of which are major battlegrounds between different Republican factions. Not surprisingly, Republicans in each camp have watched the White House for any hint of which of their worldviews ends up swaying Trump.

The Bannon-Priebus relationship, and their relative influence in the White House, has been a source of constant speculation since Trump named them to coequal positions during the transition.

"I cherish his friendship," Priebus, the White House chief of staff, said of Bannon, the president's senior adviser. He called his counterpart "dogged" and "loyal" and "consistent."

Bannon, in turn, described Priebus as "indefatigable" and "steady." Priebus said they worked together nearly every moment of the day, from 6:30 in the morning to 11 at night.

Priebus was the quintessential establishment Republican who oversaw the 2013 RNC "autopsy" that called for immigration reform and aggressive outreach to women, minorities, and young voters. Bannon was an anti-establishment media mogul who billed his news organization Breitbart as "the platform for the alt right," and featured a stream of stories praising Trump and railing against "globalist" Republicans who supported "amnesty" and free trade.

"It was Donald Trump that was able to bring this party and this movement together," Priebus said. "Steve and I know that and we live it every day."

A story in Bannon's own former news outlet Breitbart, quoted "sources close to the president" slamming Priebus for allegedly mismanaging the White House this month and suggesting he might be removed. The article prompted an outraged response from Bannon, who told CNN he was "livid" over any implication he and Priebus were at odds. Just days earlier, he and Priebus had held a joint interview with New York Magazine emphasizing their close relationship.

Trump himself is scheduled to address CPAC on Friday morning.

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