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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Ex-Trump strategist: White House aides must defend president

Weeks after being pushed out of the administration, Steve Bannon says advisers who don't support Trump should quit — and blames the church for the migrant crisis. 

Mr Trump had continued to speak privately with Mr Bannon in the months after firing him as the White House chief strategist last August. Carlos Barria / Reuters
Mr Trump had continued to speak privately with Mr Bannon in the months after firing him as the White House chief strategist last August. Carlos Barria / Reuters

President Donald Trump's ex-strategist is blasting White House aides who publicly distance themselves from the president's response to Charlottesville, yet stay on in their jobs.

Steve Bannon also criticised the Roman Catholic church for opposing President Trump's policy on migrants, saying bishops "need illegal aliens to fill the churches."

Just weeks after he was pushed out of his role as one of Mr Trump's closest advisers, Steve Bannon berated former colleagues for not resigning if they could not, or would not, support the president. He singled out Mr Trump's economic adviser, Gary Cohn, saying, "If you don't like what he's doing and you don't agree with it, you have an obligation to resign."

In an interview with The Financial Times, Mr Cohn had denounced Mr Trump for saying that "many sides" were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and criticised the administration's response to the incident.

Mr Bannon's response, given during an interview with CBS television's 60 Minutes programme, was, "You can tell him, 'Hey, maybe you can do it a better way.' But if you're going to break, then resign. If you're going to break with him, resign."

Asked if Cohn should have quit, Mr Bannon said: "Absolutely."

A favourite among the right-wing of the Republican party, Mr Bannon was removed from his post in August after a turbulent seven months in the West Wing. He returned to Breitbart News, which he led before joining the Trump campaign.

Calling himself a "street fighter," Mr Bannon said, "That's why Donald Trump and I get along so well. I'm going to be his wing man outside for the entire time."

In the interview, he accused the Republican establishment of trying to "nullify the 2016 election," picking out Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell "and, to a degree,[speaker of the House of Representatives] Paul Ryan," as obstacles to the president's "populist, economic nationalist agenda" and said they would be held accountable if they don't support Trump.

On the subject of migrants, Mr Bannon said Roman Catholic bishops opposed Mr Trump's decision to end the system that protected hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation because the church needed to combat dwindling attendance.

"The bishops have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration. … This is not doctrine at all," said Mr Bannon, who is himself Catholic.

That remark drew a sharp response from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said it was "preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn't central to Catholic teaching."

Spokesman James Rogers said, "Our pro-immigration stance is based on fidelity to God's word and honours the American dream. For anyone to suggest that it is out of sordid motives of statistics or financial gain is outrageous and insulting."

Kevin Appleby, who oversaw migration policies for the US bishops for 16 years, said their position is, in fact, rooted in "2,000 years of church teaching" and was "ultimately a justice issue."

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