President Trump was reportedly furious with Steve Bannon for contradicting him on North Korea in a recent interview, and that played a role in his decision to oust his chief strategist from the White House.
Trump has been considering relieving Bannon for several days now, CNN reports, citing two White House officials. He was upset Bannon chose to undermine his hard-line stance on North Korea in an interview with the American Prospect. Bannon dismissed the possibility of a military solution in North Korea in the interview, just days after Trump warned North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un that the American military is “locked and loaded” for a potential conflict if he missteps.
“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it,” Bannon said. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
As North Korea threatened last week to conduct a more provocative missile test, Trump warned that North Korean threats will be met with “fire and fury” like nothing the world has seen before. The president stressed that if North Korea threatens the lives of American citizens, “things will happen to them like they never thought possible.”
“They should be very nervous,” he explained to reporters.
He finished the week out with a reminder that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”
The Department of State and Department of Defense supported the president’s tough position. “While diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action, it is backed by military options,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in a joint article Monday.
Mattis previously warned that North Korea must “stand down” or face the “end of its regime.”
Bannon effectively contradicted those statements, cutting the legs out from under the president as he attempted to put pressure on North Korea. In the wake of Bannon’s big reveal, which was reportedly meant to be off the record, three leading administration officials — Mattis, Tillerson, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford all stressed that military options remain on the table if North Korea chooses poorly, challenging Bannon’s claims.
It is unclear what the final straw was for the president, but the contradictory statements on North Korea appear to have played a factor in his sudden ouster from the White House.
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