Steve Bannon expects 2019 to be "most vitriolic year" since before the Civil War

Bannon: 2019 will be "real meat grinder" for Trump

Last Updated Feb 24, 2019 2:35 PM EST

Find more from Bannon's interview at the bottom of this article.

With the anticipated upcoming release of special counsel Robert Mueller's final report, ongoing probes by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York into President Trump's businesses and Democrats in control of the House, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon predicts 2019 will be a "vitriolic" and "nasty" year in American politics. 

"I think that 2019 is going to be the most vitriolic year in American politics since before the Civil War," Bannon said in an interview with CBS News correspondent Seth Doane on Saturday. "And I include Vietnam in that. I think we're in, I think we're in for a very nasty 2019."

Bannon, who helped the president mount an unexpectedly successful populist White House bid during the 2016 campaign cycle before tapped for a White House post, said the president will face increased scrutiny this year, both from federal investigators and Democrats seeking to thwart his reelection.

"I think the next 90 days to four months is going to be a real meat grinder ... I mean, the pressure on the president is coming from many different angles," he said, adding later, "I think you've already seen it from what the Democrats, some of these reports they've been dropping here without telling anybody. I think that now they control the House they can weaponize this, they could weaponize the Mueller report."

Bannon said he also expects the president to face primary challenges from more centrist and moderate Republicans. Some high-profile Republicans, including Maryland's popular Gov. Larry Hogan, are mulling bids to mount insurgent campaigns against the incumbent president.

Still, Bannon said Mr. Trump will be "in a much more battle-hardened position" as result of the political challenges he expects to besiege the White House in the coming months. 

After being pushed out of the administration in the summer of 2017 by former White House chief of staff John Kelly — reportedly for influencing Mr. Trump's decision to denounce "many sides" for the deadly Charlottesville rally by white supremacists — Bannon has been advising far-right political campaigns in the U.S. and Europe.


More from Bannon on...

...tariffs

Bannon: Trump should proceed with tariffs if China doesn't come to an agreement


"I think what people like myself and others, and maybe to the right of the president and more China hawks, is to say, 'It's imperative, we think, on March 1 to go to the next round of tariffs, to increase the tariffs. You will put additional pressure on the Chinese.' The president, as a negotiator, I think essentially has said, 'Hey, I think we can get there. I think we can get the six different areas we can move them forward. We're not going to have deals on March 1. But I'm prepared to work with President Xi.' It's just a different negotiating style.

[...]

"Remember, China has gamed the system over 25 years. I mean, if you look at this, there's a book out there, 'Unrestricted Warfare,' that I know you're familiar with, that lays out the Chinese plan over 25 years about information war, economic war and kinetic war. They said, 'We can take the West on economically.' The Chinese have tremendous levers. I mean, listen, essentially as a country, right, as a great power, our elites had given up. 

"Not Democrats and Republicans, but the elites combined had kind of given up on us ever getting our manufacturing base back from China. In fact, they shipped it over there. Donald Trump's pivot and I think this is why the new NAFTA deal is so important, to set up North America both Mexico, Canada and the United States as a geo-strategic manufacturing arm to bring the supply chain, the high value, add a supply chain back from Asia."

...the 2020 Democratic candidates

Bannon "surprised" by Democratic candidates' move to the left



"I think the most interesting thing that's happening right now in politics is how far to the left some of these candidates that are running for president of the Democrat Party are being pulled on some of the policies you're talking about. I think it's, I think how that plays in the general election is to be seen but I'm pretty shocked about how far they are being pulled.

[...]

"I've always said I think there will be someone that comes forward, whether it's Schultz or Bloomberg, and says, 'Hey, Trump is too far to the right with this kind of,' they'll argue he has a nativist, xenophobic, you know, America-first isolationist attitude. In the left is democratic socialism: 'I will be the one-time savior of the country and try to pull together something in the middle.' 

"I think it's interesting that the attacks immediately didn't come from the right, didn't come from Trump, but that you really saw a wall of lead come down on Schultz who's a pretty, I think, liberal Democrat."

...Ann Coulter

Bannon: Ann Coulter is doing a "good job" of holding Trump to his promises

Doane: "Ann Coulter called the president an idiot over his stance on the wall. How do you think this plays with his base?"

Bannon: "I think the base is bifurcated into two. I think there is a section of the base that's quite concerned about what was signed in this appropriations bill. You know, you have this thing about the unaccompanied minors that is going to be quite controversial, about whether there was an amnesty grant or not. There's also these issues about what local authorities, what types of power they have over, to actually stop or what types of consultation they have, rights they have with the chief executive over actually building the wall. So I think we'll have to see all that. 

"You know, look, Ann provides a function. She is actually out there as kind of the spokesman or someone, you know, and she doesn't play by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. She's very, you know, she's very pointed in how she says it. I know she supports the president, but in this regard I think she brings up some good points that the president — and particularly the staff around him, I'm not so sure he was that well-served in these negotiations about the details of what was actually in the immigration part of this. 

"And I think Ann has done a good job of trying to bring those up so people can understand it. It's not that, people, the base, don't support the president. But remember, the president came with an agenda. That agenda was dealing with massive illegal immigration and also dealing with legal immigration. That's what his supporters want to see and want to make sure that he's focused on it to the degree they can help him for that agenda. 

"So I wouldn't take this personally from Ann Coulter. I actually think the president should look at that as something as trying to be constructive in trying to help further his agenda."

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous headline on this article incorrectly stated Bannon said he expects 2019 to be the most vitriolic year in politics "since the Civil War," not "since before the Civil War." 

  • img-3131.jpg
    Camilo Montoya-Galvez On Twitter»

    Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics. Twitter: @camiloreports