From a basement of the Capitol, Bannon fuels the crisis of the Republican Party | ET REALITY


On Wednesday morning, two Republicans who hours earlier had ousted Kevin McCarthy as House speaker made the worn trek to a 19th-century brick house a few blocks from the Capitol and entered the crowded sanctuary of Stephen’s recording studio. K. Bannon. .

Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, the instigator of the rebellion, and Nancy Mace of South Carolina, one of the seven other Republican defectors, met with Bannon for a morning meeting before a joint appearance on his “War Room” podcast.

“The tectonic plate is shifting here in the imperial capital,” Bannon told his listeners during the show, directing them to donate to his online guests. “We must fill the void now. “We have to open the wound that is K Street in this nation.”

From this cave-like studio, not far from where Congress meets, Bannon, Trump’s former adviser, has been stoking the chaos now gripping the Republican Party, using the spectacle to gain his own following and using his popular podcast to prop up and encourage. on the republican rebels.

Bannon has spent years promoting the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, criticizing coronavirus mandates and what he calls a “criminal invasion of the southern border.” His obsession lately was to overthrow McCarthy and eliminate what he describes as “one-party” Republicans who have become indistinguishable from Democrats.

With McCarthy’s historic downfall this week, his wing of the party has claimed its most notable trophy.

Bannon represents a clear line from the grievance-driven MAGA base to Congress. And his role in this week’s crisis in the House helps explain why the Republican Party appears to be devouring its own. It’s a vital part of a feedback loop of media hits and social media posts, online fundraising and no-holds-barred sermonizing to an often angry and fervently right-wing base that rewards disruption and loathes institutions.

In recent decades, right-wing rebels on Capitol Hill have struggled to get real traction: shunned by deep-pocketed lobbyists and political action committees, excluded from leadership chambers on Capitol Hill, and neglected by Fox News. But with the help of Bannon, who broadcasts live for four hours every weekday, Gaetz and others don’t need to rely on any of that.

Bannon presents the agitators as heroes to his devoted MAGA acolytes and helps boost their small fundraiser. She participates in calls with members and donors. He offers strategic advice. He harasses Fox News hosts who he claims don’t give him fair treatment. But above all, he offers an unfiltered platform where individual agitators can speak directly to the base, known in “War Room” as “the gang,” creating more incentive for them to wreak havoc in the House.

For weeks, Bannon has been strategizing with Gaetz in the attempt to defeat McCarthy, offering himself as a sounding board as Gaetz planned his moves.

“KABOOM,” Bannon texted a reporter Monday night, minutes after Gaetz introduced his long-awaited motion to impeach the speaker.

He has also encouraged far-right lawmakers to use the House of Representatives to shift legislation as far to the right as possible, gaining media attention in the process. His advice to them: “Get an amendment. Make it as outrageous as possible. “Just hang in there, don’t worry if you’re not on Fox, we’ll cut it and play it.”

On Wednesday, Bannon introduced his podcast guests as “yesterday’s architects and heroes” and gave them airtime to make a fundraising pitch.

“I need help because they’re coming after me,” said Mace, who represents a politically competitive district. “They have threatened to use up all my money. Several members, before last night’s vote, threatened to stop fundraising if I took this vote. It’s an enormous amount of pressure. “They call their staff and scare them.” Twice, Bannon asked him to detail her campaign website so listeners could find it.

Her audience is still distrustful of Mace, a fiscal conservative who leans toward the center on some social issues and voted to prosecute Bannon for criminal contempt for defying a Jan. 6 committee subpoena.

But Bannon sees her as a gift. His vote to unseat McCarthy allowed him and his minions to reject the idea that it was just an angry group of ultra-MAGA hardliners who had lost faith in McCarthy.

“Nancy is not a hard-line far-right legislator,” Gaetz said on the show. “Nancy is a fiscal hawk.”

Mace previously called Gaetz a “fraud” and accused him of opposing McCarthy because he did not defend him against “allegations that he sex-trafficked minors.”

But all that seemed to be a thing of the past the morning after McCarthy’s ouster. They were, at least temporarily, allies. On Wednesday, they sat side by side in Bannon’s basement, where books about China, Trump and sensible weight-loss programs live in haphazard piles on any available flat surface. Trump’s notes written in his trademark Sharpie (“Steve! Your show is sooo cool, proud of you! Donald”) are stacked alongside other miscellany.

The group was still digesting the historical events of the previous day, while figuring out their next moves. They decided, together, to use Wednesday’s broadcast to look toward the future, rather than “dunking” the former speaker.

“I was hitting; He was really ugly last night,” said Mace, whom McCarthy attacked at her afternoon press conference, suggesting she was lying when she claimed he had gone back on her word.

During commercial breaks, they pondered who the next speaker could be, but there was no clear answer. “I asked Jim Jordan in the room yesterday: Are you going to be the next speaker?” Mrs. Mace said. She turned to Mr. Gaetz with an idea. “Do you want to meet with any of them today, together? Like Scalise or Jordan or someone else? She didn’t commit.

Mr. Bannon was too.

“I’m just going to see how it plays out,” he said. “Who has the stones to confront the device?”

Gaetz has described himself to people as a “Banonite tribalist.”

Bannon, for his part, is in awe of Gaetz, whom he compares to Daniel Webster. He credits the Florida Republican for recognizing early last year how useful a slim Republican majority could be to the far right.

“He sat here in July and talked about how we weren’t going to have a 30- or 40-seat majority, but actually that was going to be better,” Bannon said. “We were going to have influence. He is a very special guy.”

Many of the new rebels in Congress have relied on Bannon’s support as they seek to make their own mark.

Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado said she was grateful to him for recently offering her a spot on his show to talk about the southern border, rather than rehashing her embarrassing evening on “Beetlejuice.”

“Steve is a reliable source and understands that my one night out personally does not affect the work I have been doing for four years,” she said. “Steve understands the base and what the base wants. He is not dedicated to the issue of donors, but I appreciate that people contribute.”

Bannon’s name is often met with eye rolls, even among Trump loyalists. Some see him as a man who has made the wrong bet on candidates, such as failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and has an exaggerated sense of his own influence. He was accused of defrauding donors who were giving money to build a wall along the southern border, before being pardoned by Trump. He was sentenced to four months in jail for criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena and is free while he appeals the conviction.

But last week, as Bannon’s cohort debated amendments to the annual military spending bill in the House of Representatives, Bannon was glued to C-SPAN like a proud stage dad.

“This is red meat,” Bannon exulted, as Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana championed an amendment that would ban mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for service members, referring to the vaccine as an “experimental drug.”

Bannon, an unrepentant agent of chaos, admits he was seeking a government shutdown.

“Now a storm is created that totally changes things,” he said. “People now think that government is a benefit. “I am going to show public spending as infested with lice.”

Bannon is also famous for his temper. He has turned on former friends, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, for backing McCarthy during the presidential race and on the debt ceiling deal. He has been blacklisted from the show for months.

But after she said she opposed any spending bill that included aid to Ukraine, Bannon said he was reaching out to her again. “There’s always a way back,” she said.

On Wednesday morning, Bannon and his guests tried to temper their joy.

“Don’t let the group get drunk on punch,” Gaetz said on the show. There was more work to do.

Mr. Gaetz and Ms. Mace stayed for three segments of the show, until it was time for Mr. Rosendale to take command and light up the base.

“I’ll talk to you later today,” Bannon said as Gaetz walked out.

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