Wash. Post's Robert Costa: Trump's Mexico Trip Shows Steve Bannon's “Pension For Stunts” And “Political Combat”

Costa: “This Mexico Trip Is Classic Bannon”

From the August 31 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

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JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Bob Costa, you broke the news last night. Tell us about it. Why is Trump going to Mexico? 

ROBERT COSTA: Well, he got the invitation last Friday, and over the weekend he was in Bedminster, New Jersey, at his weekend retreat, his golf club outside of New York City. He's meeting with Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart, now his campaign chief executive. And the thing about how to go big, how to have some kind of headline-grabber this week as Trump rolls out his immigration speech, tries to clarify his wavering position and, so, from what I hear based on my reporting, Bannon and others around Trump said you should just go to Mexico, accept the invitation, make it a surprise trip. Not everyone in that room, though, Joe, in Bedminster, I hear, was totally enthusiastic about the idea. They’re worried maybe the political theater wouldn’t play out in a favorable way to Trump, but he is going. He has accepted, and that's the story for now. 

SCARBOROUGH: Do you know who in the room was opposed to Trump going to Mexico? 

COSTA: I think there were several people in the room, which is a lot of Trump family, friends, and advisers who had some reservations about the logistics, the security, and the political consequences. Specifically, who spoke out against the trip, I haven't been able to confirm that yet. But I know there was definitely a healthy discussion about whether this was a smart move. 

SCARBOROUGH: Does it still appear that Bannon is in firm control of this campaign now and is Trump's top adviser, top confidant? 

COSTA:  I think Bannon is someone who understands Trump's M.O. He understands how Trump thinks, not as a Republican, not as the GOP nominee or standard-bearer, but really as a populous-nationalist. And what’s interesting about Bannon, is coming out of the Breitbart wing of the party, is he does have a pension for stunts, he does like political combat, so this Mexico trip is classic Bannon. 

SCARBOROUGH: There was always friction between, whether it was [former Trump campaign manager] Corey [Lewnadowski] and other people around Trump, the family. There was friction between [former Trump campaign chief Paul] Manafort and Corey. Eventually Manafort and others around the campaign. Right now, is Bannon fighting other people in the family or right now is Bannon enjoying a fairly peaceful run as the head of this campaign? 

COSTA: So far Bannon’s public run has not been pretty peaceful. There have been allegations about his past, different domestic abuse. Internally--
SCARBOROUGH: Right, but privately, inside.
COSTA: Inside, it has been pretty peaceful. My sources tell me that Kellyanne Conway has become and assumed the role of the public face of the campaign, someone who can explain Trump in public and go on numerous shows and who has a rapport with Trump. Bannon has not done an interview. He’s been operating really quietly behind the scenes. He has this a private meeting on Saturday with Pat Caddell, the former democratic pollster. He's planning this trip to Mexico. He was the person in many ways who was behind Trump's trip to Baton Rouge. So you have Bannon as his operator who’s at Trump's side, but not making any kind of public name for himself. 


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