After Steve Bannonon Fox News on Monday to declare war on Republican Senate incumbents and call for Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker to resign, he received a text from an unlikely fan: Jared Kushner.
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser messaged the former chief White House strategist to say he thought the TV hit was a success, according to multiple people who were dining with Bannon at Del Frisco’s steakhouse across the street from Fox News’ Manhattan studios when the message popped up.
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The attaboy from a campaign ally-turned-West Wing nemesis was surprising on multiple fronts. For one, Bannon associates and White House officials said Kushner hasn’t reached out to Bannon since he was ousted from his White House post in August.
But even stranger was that members of the Del Frisco’s dinner crew, which included conservative media personalities, thought Kushner was belatedly endorsing an anti-establishment strategy that has many Republicans concerned about losing control of the Senate altogether — one that undercuts the very members of Congress the White House needs as partners if Trump wants to pass any part of his domestic agenda, including tax reform.
“Corker, McConnell, the entire clique — establishment, globalist clique — on Capitol Hill have to go,” Bannon, now a free agent, told Fox News host Sean Hannity in the interview. He added: “Sen. Corker is an absolute disgrace” for rebuking Trump in an interview Sunday with The New York Times.
In the Hannity interview, Bannon — who noted that he has dropped 12 pounds since leaving the grueling White House gig and returning to his old perch at Breitbart News — said he is planning to bankroll primary opponents to every Republican incumbent in 2018, with one exception: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Kushner was partially responsible for persuading Trump toincumbent Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in the Republican Senate primary runoff last month over Bannon-backed former judge Roy Moore, who won. But, at least according to his text, Kushner wasn’t averse to Bannon’s lashing of incumbents.
“They have total contempt for the forgotten man. They have total contempt for the base. That’s what you saw in Alabama,” Bannon said.
Kushner has recently been hosting bipartisan dinners at his Kalorama mansion, Axios reported, breaking bread with people like conservative Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin to identify areas where the White House can score “bipartisan wins” on issues like criminal justice reform.
His thumbs-up to Bannon — which one person said elicited a warm thanks in response — seemed at odds with that patina of dinner party diplomacy. And it could be seen as a sign of the irreparable relationship between the White House and Corker. The outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was once one of the Republican senators closest to Kushner, advising him on Middle East issues and defending him publicly amid reports that he tried to set up a back channel with the Russian ambassador during the transition last year.
A Corker spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on how the senator’s comments about Trump have affected his relationship with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, or if they have spoken since the ugly Twitter spat with the president.
A person familiar with the text said Kushner was simply endorsing Bannon’s staunch defense of Trump — and that interpreting it as an endorsement of a planned takedown of the party establishment was over-reading it.