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Vox Sentences: Is Jared Kushner the new Steve Bannon?

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Bannon, you’re fired (from the NSC); the chemical attack in Syria puts a spotlight on Russia; O’Reilly’s sexual harassment cases cost Fox News money — but not Trump’s support.


Demotions and promotions in Trump’s White House

Steve Bannon Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
  • News broke today that President Trump removed chief strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. [Reuters / Steve Holland, John Walcott]
  • Bannon is the highest-powered ideologue in the Trump administration — an unapologetic “economic nationalist” who dabbles in straight-up white nationalism to boot. So his demotion from the council is probably good news to anyone who doesn’t want to see those ideas embodied in American national security policy. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Since Bannon had no qualifying experience for the position to begin with — and his (highly untraditional) elevation to the council squeezed off more qualified members — this move restores the NSC’s traditional power balance, to boot. [Vox / Yochi Dreazen]
  • It’s likely that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster (who replaced Trump ally Michael Flynn in February, when Flynn resigned over inappropriate contacts with the Russian government) is the party responsible for Bannon’s demotion. The administration basically admits as much — though they claim, puzzlingly, that Bannon was intended to serve on the NSC to keep an eye on Flynn, the man Trump himself trusted most in the job. [Bloomberg / Jennifer Jacobs]
  • But it also seems plausible that the demotion is the product of a rumored rift between opposing factions of Trump’s own inner circle: moderates who were in step with Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka versus ideological populists like Bannon. [Washington Post / Philip Rucker, Robert Costa]
  • This isn’t a bug of Trump’s leadership style. It’s a feature. From the beginning — including during the presidential transition, which Kushner reportedly took over from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as an act of revenge — Trump’s presidency has been marked by competing circles of power and factions fighting for his attention. [Washington Post / Dan Balz]
  • And the president shows favor by piling responsibility upon responsibility. Kushner, for one, has taken on a shockingly broad portfolio of tasks, which range from striking a peace deal between Israeli and Palestinians and solving the opioid crisis to acting as a liaison to both Mexico and China. [Business Insider / Maxwell Tani]
  • Perhaps most indicative of the current shake-up in the White House is the fact that Kushner is heading up a task force focused on government efficiency — despite the fact that Bannon had been heading up a “Strategic Initiatives Group” designed to do just that. [Washington Post / Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker]
  • Weirdly, Trump officials started claiming this week that Bannon’s group never existed. Even more weirdly, journalists have spotted a West Wing office labeled “Strategic Initiatives Group,” which would be a strange thing for a nonexistent group to have. [The Hill, Jonathan Easley]
  • The disorganization stems from distrust. The distrust stems from the internecine competition Trump cultivates. The shake-ups are the inevitable outcome of the president’s management style. [Politico / Josh Dawsey, Tara Palmeri, Eli Stokols, Shane Goldmacher​]

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley turns on Russia after Syrian chemical attack

United Nations Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting On Syria Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Trump defends Fox’s O’Reilly from sexual harassment claims

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
  • Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that Fox News has paid a shocking $13 million to settle sexual harassment lawsuits against Fox star Bill O’Reilly — brought by his female colleagues. [New York Times / Emily Steel, Michael S. Schmidt]
  • In the days since, Fox has seen more than 40 advertisers drop O’Reilly’s show. But the network hasn’t said anything substantial on the topic, and — with the exception of a short statement — neither has O’Reilly. [CNN / Tom Kludt]
  • It’s worth noting that Fox News is currently under investigation by the US attorney’s office for how it has handled sexual harassment cases. [New York Times / Emily Steel, John Koblin]
  • In July 2016, Fox saw the departure of chair and chief executive Roger Ailes due to widely publicized sexual harassment allegations. But Ailes’s departure came only after a pressure campaign by Fox executives for employees to support their boss and refute the allegations. Fox seems intent on handling O’Reilly’s case quietly. [New York Times / John Koblin, Emily Steel, Jim Rutenberg]
  • Perhaps it’s because O’Reilly is almost unfathomably valuable to Fox: His show The O’Reilly Factor was the No. 1 cable news show in 2016, and it brought in close to $178 million in 2015. [TV Newser / A.J. Katz] [New York Times / Emily Steel, Michael Schmidt]
  • One viewing household in particular, however, speaks to O’Reilly’s true reach: the White House. Trump has been known to cite Fox News as a source, and Fox producers and show hosts reportedly do their jobs knowing that at any moment, “maybe the president is watching.” [New York Times / John Koblin, Nick Corasaniti]
  • Today, Trump came out in support of O’Reilly, telling the New York Times, “I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person.” Ironically, last week Trump declared April Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • Cruel ironies aside, even before Trump spoke out in support, it seemed unlikely that Fox would force O’Reilly’s ouster. The network needs him too much. [Law News / Alberto Luperon]

Miscellaneous

  • Shawn Katusabe was forced to flee Uganda because of a culture of homophobia American evangelicals helped create. And then a Christian family in California took him in. [The Atavist / Jacob Kushner]
  • A full list of suggested mascots for Amherst College, including "A Silver Fox (named Shadow)" and "just plain 'The Jeffs.'" [Amherst College]
  • Let us now praise the humble egg slicer kitchen tool. [GQ / Kelsey McKinney]
  • Walking on the escalator is one of life's great pleasures. But researchers say escalators are more efficient when absolutely no one is walking. [NYT / Christopher Mele]
  • Like many cities, Seattle has dealt for decades with NIMBY homeowners blocking development and keeping rents high. Now neighborhood groups are finally being overthrown, and affordable housing is starting to stand a chance. [Next City / Erica Barnett]

Verbatim

  • “In 2014, I testified before Paul Ryan, now the House Speaker, at a congressional hearing about poverty in America. Every other person who testified that day knew about poverty because they had studied it. I was the only one there actually living it.” [Washington Post / Tianna Gaines-Turner]
  • “A media apparatus that was built to fleece gullible, generally older people now holds sway over much of Congress and the president himself. It turns out gerontocracy is an even bigger disaster in a nation with a giant media industry dedicated to scaring and lying to old people.” [Fusion / Alex Pareene]
  • “It’s the basic principle that if something is misrepresented to you, it should be corrected. He really just prefers butter for a number of reasons.” [Thomas Shapiro to NYT / Daniel Victor]
  • “If women once gathered to pass around herbs and vines and illegal diaphragms and D.I.Y. abortion kits, why not code?” [New Yorker / Moira Weigel]
  • “The pair of Caligula's pleasure ships found during Mussolini's time as prime minister revealed palatial furnishings and advanced naval mechanisms, including bronze statues, marble floors and lead pipes marked ‘Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus’ (Caligula's full name) that would have carried hot and cold running water.” [Washington Post / Amy B. Wang]

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