Longtime confidantes of Steve Bannon floated the idea of a 2020 bid to various Trump allies months back, after the former White House chief strategist was ousted from the West Wing and grew concerned about President Trump's commitment to his populist agenda, the Washington Examiner has learned.
Three sources close to Bannon – one of whom was pitched on the vision – confirmed on Thursday that conversations about a presidential bid took place. It was unclear whether the idea originated from Bannon himself, or if allies of the former Breitbart chairman took it upon themselves to float it.
Bannon exited the White House last August after engaging in a fierce power struggle with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and other West Wing officials for months. The president severed ties with his former aide last week when author Michael Wolff released a tell-all book containing several negative comments about the president's children made by Bannon in a series of on-the-record interviews.
The provocative media mogul was forced to leave the helm of Breitbart News earlier this week, a move seen by many as the final step in his fall from grace.
But long before Bannon's feud with Trump spilled out into the open, people close to him were shopping around the possibility of him running in three years if Trump lost the support of his base or decided against a reelection bid.
"Steve said he would consider running if the president didn't run," a source involved in the discussions at the time told the Washington Examiner. "He was adamant about not challenging Trump."
"Bannon had become delusional," said former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who claims he was asked "a couple months ago" about a Bannon candidacy by those close to the ex-Breitbart chairman.
The source involved in those discussions said they began in October or November of 2017, "when it was obvious that indictments were coming and there weren't any conservative nationalists besides [White House policy adviser Stephen] Miller left in the West Wing."
A third source close to Bannon said what began as a joke did become "a semi-serious proposal" among his close allies at one point. But a 2020 challenge for Bannon – without Breitbart or any major GOP donors at his disposal –is virtually guaranteed now not to materialize, the same source said.
Bannon has found himself increasingly isolated in recent days, after stepping down from Breitbart and losing his popular radio program on SiriusXM.
The Daily Beast reported Thursday that the former Trump aide has lawyered up since leaving the White House, and is now focused on cooperating with federal investigators as part of the ongoing probe into possible collusion between the president's associates and Russian officials.
Bannon was largely expected to avoid being questioned by congressional investigators or special counsel Robert Mueller. But his comments in Wolff's book about a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, and ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort at Trump Tower (Bannon called the sit-down "treasonous") could create an opening for a Q&A session with Mueller's team.
Meanwhile, Bannon is expected to appear before the House Intelligence Committee for a closed-door hearing next week.