Which for sure definitely makes sense, since Flynn's been gone since mid-February. (It does not make sense.)
Since the White House's (and Beve Stannon's) explanations for why Bannon was removed from the National Security Council are a wee bit suspect, the press is digging for the story of what really happened.
Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, and Glenn Thrush at the New York Times report that National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster was behind ousting Bannon from the NSC, because he didn't want a political operative in "the Situation Room where decisions about war and peace are made."
Buried deep in the same article, however, is this:
Moreover, Mr. Bannon's Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing's only leading man. Several associates said the president had quietly expressed annoyance over the credit Mr. Bannon had received for setting the agenda — and Mr. Trump was not pleased by the "President Bannon" puppet-master theme promoted by magazines, late-night talk shows and Twitter.Something tells me that has a lot more to do with this decision. Even if McMaster indeed advocated for Bannon's removal, it was only because Trump's ego was taking a beating that he agreed to it.
It probably also matters, as Eliana Johnson, Kenneth P. Vogel, and Josh Dawsey at Politico report, that Bannon has increasingly been clashing "with the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who's taken on an increasingly prominent portfolio in the West Wing. Bannon has complained that Kushner and his allies are trying to undermine his populist approach, the sources said."
Because Trump surrounds himself with family, in the long tradition of paranoid authoritarians, it doesn't matter how loyal anyone is to Trump nor how much they believe they've earned a place in the inner circle: If they can't get along with the family, they're going to find themselves on the outs very quickly.
Bannon reportedly threatened to quit over his demotion, but conservative mega-donor Rebekah Mercer "prevailed upon him to stay."
Another person familiar with the situation, a GOP operative who talks to Mercer, said: "Bekah tried to convince him that this is a long-term play."That's an interesting way of convincing Bannon to stay: It's "a long-term play." Which sounds a lot less like Bannon is actually the trusted advisor we (and Trump?) have been led to believe he is, and more like Bannon is an interloper representing an external agenda.
Bannon has worked closely with Mercer not only at the right-wing website Breitbart News, where her family is a major investor and where he served as executive chairman until joining the Trump campaign in August, but also at Cambridge Analytica, the data-analytics firm owned largely by the Mercers.
Which brings us to a different Politico piece, by Alex Isenstadt and Andrew Restuccia, bluntly headlined: "Civil war rages throughout Trump administration." They report: "A civil war between Donald Trump loyalists and establishment-minded Republicans is escalating throughout the federal government—and increasingly the president's allies are losing."
A former Trump campaign aide is quoted bitterly complaining: "As we get further away from Inauguration Day, it is very obvious that no one cares what happens to the people who worked for the campaign or who have loyalty to the president. The swamp is winning the battle."
Maybe the swamp doesn't like the idea of a chief strategist who can't actually get anything done, because he doesn't know what the fuck he's doing.
The real story of what's going in remains unclear. What is clear, however, is that this is a White House mired in paranoid chaos, with multiple factions competing for control. And Trump appears to be woefully unequipped to make good decisions or be any kind of stabilizing leader. Overwhelmed by the quagmire, he's more interested in golfing than governing.
That leaves his White House in utter disarray, and leaves all of us in one hell of a mess.