Steve Bannon privately expressed ambivalence about Donald Trump as a presidential candidate before taking over his campaign, calling Trump a "narcissist" and stating that he didn't care if Trump won, according to emails obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The email exchange, during Bannon's first run as executive chairman of Breitbart News, is of fresh relevance after President Trump Wednesday lambasted his former chief strategist. Trump's statement blasting Bannon as self-important and deluded in turn followed the publication of a book excerpt in New York magazine earlier Wednesday in which Bannon criticized the president and his family. As the relationship between the president and Bannon publicly implodes, the emails reveal that, in private, before Trump became the GOP nominee, Bannon held no illusions about the man he would help become the most powerful person in the world.
Bannon did not respond to a request for comment.
On Jan. 13, 2016, three weeks before the Iowa caucuses marked the beginning of the Republican primary election season, then-Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos sent Bannon, along with Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow, a draft of a story titled "How Trump Can Win Iowa."
"Why r we doing this," Bannon responded.
"We want him to win, don't we?" Yiannopoulos wrote back. "Well, I do..."
"No," Bannon replied, and told his staffers to hold the story. "I'm totally indifferent. I'm darwinian...he who wins, wins."
Four days later, on Jan. 17, Yiannopoulos kicked the tires on the email thread, linking to a CNN video in which Trump discussed his relationship with God.
At the time of the Iowa primary, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz slammed Trump to the state's evangelical voters by saying that he had never asked God for forgiveness.
"He NEVER asks for forgiveness!!!" Bannon wrote back. "It's a joke having him discuss god."
Still, Bannon approved the story, on the condition that then-Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro write a dueling column in support of Cruz.
In response to Bannon's criticism of Trump's lack of humility before God, Breitbart's Washington political editor Matthew Boyle chimed in. "...He can't do anything wrong, at least in his mind," Boyle wrote. "Trump is a genius at showing absolutely no weakness whatsoever and projecting macho man confidence. He is a giant walking, living, breathing self-fulfilling prophecy."
"Narcissist," Bannon wrote back.
Seven months later, Bannon left Breitbart to lead the Trump campaign.
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
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