His future in jeopardy, Bannon attacks administration rivals

Last Updated Aug 17, 2017 7:42 AM EDT

President Trump's embattled chief strategist Steve Bannon lashed out at his rivals in the administration in a rare interview with the American Prospect, which was published Wednesday. 

Bannon told progressive American Prospect writer Robert Kuttner about his plan to neutralize his opponents, which include top officials and advisers to President Trump.

"They're wetting themselves," he said of his adversaries in the administration who disagree with him on trade and economic policies.

Bannon proceeded to relay how he wants to create an outside group of trade hawks with factions from both the left and the right wings of the political spectrum. Bannon told Kuttner he's "changing out people at East Asian Defense," and getting Susan Thornton, the acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs for the State Department, "out at State."

"That's a fight I fight every day here," he said. "We're still fighting. There's Treasury and [National Economic Council chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying."

"We gotta do this," Bannon continued about taking an aggressive stance against China on trade issues. "The president's default position is to do it, but the apparatus is going crazy. Don't get me wrong. It's like, every day."

"To me, the economic war with China is everything," Bannon told Kuttner. "And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover."

Bannon's call to Kuttner, who says he'd never spoken to the former Breitbart publisher before, came as Bannon's future in the White House is uncertain. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump said "we'll see" what happens with Bannon, in the middle of a chaotic press that blamed "both sides" for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

"Well we'll see -- look, like, I like Mr. Bannon, he's a friend of mine, but Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that," Mr. Trump said. "I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him, he is a good man, he is not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard, but we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he's a good person, and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly."

Bannon, who in the past has bragged about his connections to the "alt-right," dismissed the far-right protesters as an irrelevant "fringe element."

"Ethno-nationalism—it's losers," Bannon said. "It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more."

"These guys are a collection of clowns," the president's chief strategist added. 

Bannon also said pursuing a military option with North Korea in the face of its nuclear threats is useless. 

"There's no military solution, forget it," Bannon said. "Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul [South Korea] 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."

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.