Reince Priebus
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

While most of us are focused on what the Michael Flynn story and subsequent leaks tell us about the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference in the election, Trump’s supporters in the right wing media are consumed with a whole different story.

As an example, take a look at the spin on this opening of an article at Breitbart by Matthew Boyle.

After GOP establishment forces inside President Donald Trump’s White House forced out National Security Adviser retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, sources close to the president confirm to Breitbart News there is serious doubt as to whether this early administration shake-up will also see the exit of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Notice that while the rest of the world is examining how the intelligence community seems to be targeting members of the Trump administration, Boyle simply assumes as fact that the “GOP establishment forces” are responsible for the ouster of Flynn. In a publication that has strong ties to Bannon, his name is never mentioned in the article. But it goes on to lay out the case for how Reince Priebus has failed the president and is responsible for everything from the delay in confirming Sessions to Obama “sleeper cells” all over the government who are sabotaging this administration.

Here is how Roger Stone put it during an interview on NewsMax:

Sadly I think there is more to this. There is a political backstory. While I respect the president’s decision, I really think the White House chief-of-staff Reince Priebus made this move. Frankly, I don’t think this was a firing offense, General Flynn could have publicly apologized and this would be over.

In a way perhaps, this is the Pearl Harbour for real Trump supporters. Because I think Mr. Priebus’s agenda is clear: First General Flynn, then Stephen Miller, and then Steve Bannon.

Fox News was a bit more circumspect with their insinuations.

Michael Flynn’s overnight resignation as national security adviser was driven in part by intervention from Vice President Mike Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, well-placed sources tell Fox News…

Sources said advisers Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway were arguing that the national security adviser should be allowed to stay on, at least for now. The sources said that once senior staff learned about the pending interview with [Eli] Lake, however, Priebus went to the president to get it shut down.

There are a couple of reasons why it is important to know that this is going on. While the principals involved are determined to show a face of unity, the stories above are the ones that Trump supporters are hearing and talking about. To the extent that more turnover in the administration happens, this is the lens through which it will be viewed on the right, i.e., what does it signal in the battle between the establishment and the insurgents in the White House?

If there ever comes a time that the president himself is implicated, VP Pence (a member of the establishment) will be seen as the one who would benefit from his removal from office. That would surely lead to an unraveling of the Republican Party and is one of the biggest reasons why Congressional leaders will hesitate to go there.

Beyond that, even though these stories are filled with obvious conspiracy theories (as is often the case with right wing media), there is probably an element of truth to them. Regardless of whether Pence and Bannon are directly feuding, it is very likely that their staff/supporters in the administration are. As an example, the Fox News article above is based on a source telling them that Priebus is the one who went to the president to say that Flynn needed to go. But other sources relayed this to the NYT:

Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, asked for Mr. Flynn’s resignation — a move that he has been pushing for since Friday, when it became clear that the national security adviser had misled Mr. Pence.

That could be the result of individuals relaying only the part of the process they are aware of. But the leaking itself is probably an attempt to spin the story in a way that will benefit the positioning of the different factions.

As many have reported over these last few months, setting up these kinds of power games has been Trump’s forte as he ran his business empire. The fact that it creates chaos, finger-pointing and a sense of ineptitude as the hallmarks of a presidential administration is not something he takes into consideration.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.