Top White House advisers Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference to make the case that despite seeming like a political odd couple, the two represent the successful marriage of disparate wings of the Republican Party, united under President Trump.
“The truth of the matter is [Trump] brought together the party and the conservative movement, and I’ve got to tell you, if the party and the conservative movement are together … it can’t be stopped,” said Priebus, the White House chief of staff and former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and former Breitbart News executive chairman, echoed that sentiment at the annual conservative confab, held just outside the nation’s capital in National Harbor, Md.
“A lot of people … have strong beliefs about different things,” Bannon continued, but eventually, “you can come together to win,” he said of their successful campaign coalition.
A year ago, having the two men of very different backgrounds and political pedigree share the same stage would have seemed highly unlikely — but, to many, so did Trump’s election.
Since the beginning of the administration, there have been reports and rumors of tension between Bannon and Priebus and speculation that they represent competing centers of power within the Oval Office, with the more populist Bannon’s influence over Trump often winning out.
But both quickly shot down any speculation of dissension between them.
“We share an office suite together. We’re basically together from 6:30 in the morning until 11 at night,” Priebus said with a laughed. Later on, he praised Bannon as “a very dear friend,” while Bannon in turn admitted that he “can run a little hot,” but that the White House chief of staff was “indefatigable.”
The differences between the two are evident from first glance. Bannon appeared in a more casual black button-down and blazer with khakis, while Priebus wore a suit and tie.
But the message they conveyed was that despite their differences, they were able to come together to serve the president and the country, much like Trump had united the sometimes-warring wings of the GOP in 2016 — from libertarians to populists to social conservatives to Reagan Democrats.
Priebus said that as RNC chair, “after overseeing 16 people kill each other” in the primary, he eventually realized that “it was Donald Trump that was able to bring … this party and this movement together.”
He talked about being stunned after getting outside of the Washington echo chamber and back to his home of Wisconsin and hearing person after person telling him they were for Trump shortly after he announced in 2015. Though party strategists and political analysts had dismissed Trump’s rise in the polls that fall, it was a lead that would never dissipate. That led to chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” from the crowd.
Bannon blamed the mainstream media for sowing inaccurate reports of discord between himself and Priebus, and he returned often throughout the interview to one of his favorite monikers for the press — the “opposition party.”
On the administration’s actions, Bannon called Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.” He also said that another top Trump priority would be the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” including rolling back Obama-era government regulations and trade agreements. He praised the president’s Cabinet picks and said that “they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”
The two were interviewed by American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, whose organization sponsors CPAC, and were welcomed onstage with a standing ovation and got multiple applause throughout their appearance.