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Et tu, brute? Steve Bannon seeks removal of Senate 'Caesar' McConnell


Et tu, brute? Steve Bannon seeks removal of Senate 'Caesar' McConnell
US news | The Guardian  /  Lauren Gambino in Washington

Steve Bannon speaks at the Value Voters Summit in Washington.

Steve Bannon speaks at the Value Voters Summit in Washington. Photograph: Mary F Calvert/Reuters

Ex-Trump White House strategist refers to Shakespearean assassination in call for conservative voters to back his rebellion against Republican establishment

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon declared war on the Republican establishment on Saturday, comparing Mitch McConnell to Julius Caesar and asking "who's going to be Brutus" in the political assassination of the Senate majority leader.

In an unapologetic speech at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington DC, Bannon called on the social conservatives assembled in the cavernous ballroom of the Shoreham Hotel to join him in replacing sitting senators with outsiders in next year's midterm elections.

"If I can a little riff on Plutarch and Shakespeare," Bannon said in his remarks regarding McConnell, "up on Capitol Hill, it's like the Ides of March. The only question – and this is just an analogy or metaphor, or whatever you want to call it – they're just looking to find out who's going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar."

After leaving the White House in August, Bannon rejoined the far-right Brietbart News website, promising to use his influence with Donald Trump to push a populist agenda from outside the West Wing. Now the rightwing bomb thrower has dedicated himself to tearing down a party establishment that finds itself in a tailspin.

Bannon has become emboldened since his candidate of choice, Roy Moore, a hardline conservative twice removed from the state supreme court and known for making controversial comments, won the Alabama special election primary against Luther Strange, the incumbent supported by McConnell and Trump.

That victory was a clear warning shot to McConnell and the GOP establishment, Bannon said.

Bannon drew raucous cheers when he spoke of the "the populist, nationalist, conservative revolt that's going on, that drove Donald Trump to victory, that drove Judge Moore to victory, that will drive 15 candidates to victory in 2018".

He predicted: "Trump is not only going to finish this term, he's going to win with 400 electoral votes in 2020."

"There's a time and season for everything and right now it's a season of war against a GOP establishment," Bannon said, adding: "Nobody can run and hide on this one, these folks are coming for you."

He singled out senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Dean Heller of Nevada for not siding with the president in a boiling war of words between Trump and Bob Corker.

In a New York Times interview last week, the Tennessee senator, the Republican chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and once strong ally of the president, accused Trump of setting the nation on a path towards "world war three".

This weekend he told the Washington Post Trump had "castrated" secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who has been trying to set up talks with nuclear-armed North Korea in the face of public criticism from his president.

Corker will retire next year. Bannon called on him to resign before then.

"Bob Corker has trashed the commander in chief of our armed forces while we have young men and women in harm's way," he said.

There was still time for senators to offer a "mea culpa", Bannon said, calling for such figures to publicly take the president's side in the feud with Corker, to band together to remove McConnell from his leadership role and to dismantle a legislative procedural hurdle that requires 60 votes for certain legislation in the Senate.

Trump has repeatedly blamed that rule for stymying his legislative agenda – in fact healthcare reform needed only 50 votes to pass and Republicans have failed to find a majority.

Seb Gorka, a controversial former advisor to the president who also left the White House in August, also addressed the Values Voter crowd. He compared Bannon to Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi master played by Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor in the Star Wars film franchise.

"If you strike me down now I will be more powerful than you ever imagined," Gorka said, paraphrasing Obi-Wan's warning to the villain Darth Vader during a lightsaber duel.

"That is Steve Bannon today."




Original Article: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/14/steve-bannon-brutus-julius-caesar-mitch-mcconnell-republican-civil-war

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