Steve Bannon
Credit: Don Irvine/Wikicommons

Throughout his career, Steve Bannon has never hidden his contempt for the Republican establishment. At his speech in 2014 inside the Vatican, he said that “the tea party’s biggest fight is not with the left,” instead, it is “with the the Republican establishment, which is really a collection of crony capitalists.” As Eric Levitz reported when Trump announced that Bannon would be his chief political strategist:

Bannon informed his staffers at Breitbart that a core part of their editorial mission was to “destroy Paul Ryan’s political career.” In December, he told one of his reporters that his “long game” was to have Ryan ousted from his Speakership by spring 2016. Both of these directives came after Trump had launched his campaign — and before Ryan had expressed any approval of the GOP front-runner.

That is the context in which to understand much of what happened in the lead-up to Trump’s announcement of the executive order on immigrants and refugees. It is especially telling when considering what was reported last night by Politico.

Senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee helped Donald Trump’s top aides draft the executive order curbing immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, but the Republican committee chairman and party leadership were not informed, according to multiple sources involved in the process…

The work of the committee aides began during the transition period after the election and before Donald Trump was sworn in. The staffers signed nondisclosure agreements, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Not only was the Republican committee chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) not informed about the development of the executive order, his staff was recruited to work on it in secret and required to sign nondisclosure agreements about their work.

It is important to keep in mind that Rep. Goodlatte is not some squishy centrist when it comes to immigration. He has received a 100% rating from FAIR, the extremist anti-immigrant advocacy group, and has spoken out in opposition to birthright citizenship. But this is the guy the Trump administration wanted to keep in the dark about their executive order.

Last week we witnessed several attempts by the White House to silence federal agencies. Apparently in some cases that means issuing directives for them to NOT consult with congressional Republicans.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that his staff was trying to seek additional details about President Trump’s executive order on immigration, but they were told by the State Department that the agency had been ordered not to share information with Congress.

One has to wonder how far the Trump White House will have to go to offend Republicans before they catch on to what Bannon is up to. It’s clear that they’ve made a Faustian bargain with the president – they won’t challenge his actions too strongly in order to gain his cooperation on their agenda of repealing Obamacare, providing tax cuts for the wealthy and decimating the social safety net. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they hope to make progress on those goals before the Trump administration completely blows up the GOP – and perhaps the rest of us in the process.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.