WASHINGTON ― Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is still notching policy wins after his return to the right-wing website Breitbart. President Donald Trump’s decision to end Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants brought as children to the U.S. by their parents is a major victory for Bannon and Breitbart — and they know it.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans Tuesday to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program with a six-month delay on enforcement, Breitbart’s chief White House correspondent celebrated:
“This is a huge step in the right direction for the Trump administration, and for Breitbart as we cover the stories that most of the rest of the media ignore on immigration like crimes committed by illegal aliens including so-called Dreamers, the economic and cultural effects on American workers of large scale legal and illegal immigration, and the forgotten man and woman President Trump honed in on during the 2016 race and in his inauguration speech,” a senior Breitbart editor who was not authorized to speak on the record told HuffPost.
Breitbart was a primary source of the push to repeal DACA, which covers approximately 800,000 people. The site has sometimes published multiple stories per day promoting repeal and praising DACA opponents, while attacking Democrats and Republicans who support the program. At one point on Tuesday, nine of the site’s 10 most popular stories were about Trump’s DACA repeal (or, in one case, about Hillary Clinton’s DACA support). It’s no surprise that Breitbart sees a victory here: The site has served for years as the most prominent platform for anti-immigration organizations and politicians to promote their views.
Breitbart’s celebration also shows that the right-wing populist movement Bannon represents is still influential in the administration, even after Bannon’s departure. Strong supporters of these policies remain in power: Sessions, who Bannon convinced to endorse Trump in 2016, remains in charge of the Justice Department. Stephen Miller, a former Sessions aide, is the president’s top domestic policy adviser. And former Breitbart writer Julia Hahn remains in the White House working on policy with Miller. Bannon can now provide them support from his perch at Breitbart.
Trump’s decision on DACA could result in a congressional push to pass legislation reinstating the program. But Breitbart is already planning to work to defeat any such legislative action, should it arise.
“Over the next six months as Congress considers whether to legislatively grant amnesty to the 800,000 plus illegal aliens that Obama illegally granted DACA executive amnesty to, we will be vigilant in how we cover and expose any career politicians who run counter to the will of the American voting public and the citizens of this country who very clearly stated in November 2016 that amnesty in any form is not acceptable public policy,” the senior Breitbart editor told HuffPost.
The idea of a fight against congressional Republicans who favor immigration reforms that would legalize undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. dovetails with Breitbart’s larger political mission of remaking the Republican Party. The news organization, particularly under Bannon, is openly hostile to both House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
In 2013, Bannon, Sessions and Miller, then a staffer for Sessions, successfully joined forces to beat a bipartisan immigration reform bill. Bannon and Miller teamed up again in 2014 to orchestrate the shock defeat of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Cantor’s support for immigration reform, and the backing he received from Wall Street donors who supported the policy, were the main issues that brought him down.
Breitbart now backs former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in the special Republican Senate primary runoff election against Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), who was appointed to fill the seat Sessions left when he became attorney general. This position puts the site at odds with Bannon’s former boss, Trump, who endorsed the incumbent Strange in early August. Just as it did in Cantor’s race, the website has dispatched reporter Matt Boyle to cover the final weeks of the contest. One such dispatch favorably compares Moore to Sessions, noting that their respective positions on immigration and trade are no different.
The Moore-Strange primary fight is only a piece of the larger battle Breitbart is waging. The big fight is to oust Ryan from his position as House speaker and replace him with a congressman more favorable to the Breitbart agenda. Axios reported on Tuesday that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who heads the conservative House Freedom Caucus, met with Bannon and Boyle at Breitbart’s offices in Washington on Monday to discuss the caucus’ plans to take control of House leadership.
Meadows appeared the next day as a guest on Breitbart’s radio show, hosted by Boyle, to tell listeners how they should pressure Ryan, House Republican leadership and their own representatives. Meadows laid out the big fights to come on the debt ceiling and the budget, and urged Breitbart followers to press their lawmakers to oppose linking a debt ceiling increase to Hurricane Harvey relief funds. He called on listeners to tell lawmakers only to pass a government funding bill that would defund sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood and include money for Trump’s border wall, and to put a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on the president’s desk.
“If they do that, we will hopefully avoid this bloody September,” Meadows concluded.
Matt Fuller contributed reporting.