Trump Declines to Back Steve Bannon on the Record: 'I Like Steve, But...'

Amid reports of growing rift between top advisers, Trump quoted as saying that 'Steve is a good guy, but I told [him and Kushner] to straighten it out or I will'

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon looks out from inside a vehicle as U.S. President Donald Trump motorcade prepares to depart Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 9, 2017.
CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump was reluctant to voice public support for Steve Bannon, one his top aides, amid reports of a massive rift between him and fellow adviser Jared Kushner that also saw Bannon lose his position on the national security council.

>> Get all updates on Trump, Kushner and U.S. politics: Download our free App, and Subscribe >>

“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said when asked by a New York Post reporter if he still felt confidence in Bannon.

FILE PHOTO: White House Senior Advisers Jared Kushner, right, and Steve Bannon, left, walk on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, March 15, 2017.
Andrew Harnik/AP

“I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary,” the president said, seeming to hint that Bannon - who began working on the Trump campaign only a few months before the election - was less instrumental in orchestrating his surprise victory against Hillary Clinton in November.

>> Bannon and Kushner feud brings anti-Semitism out of hiding <<

Kushner, husband of Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, is believed to be trying to tug the president into a more mainstream position, while Bannon is trying to keep aflame the nationalist fervor that carried Trump to his unexpected election victory on November 8.

“Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will,” he said last week.

Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, and Kushner, an influential adviser and Trump's son-in-law, met on Friday at the request of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus who told them that if they have any policy differences, they should air them internally, an official told Reuters.

Priebus' message to Bannon and Kushner was to "stop with the palace intrigue" and focus on the president's agenda, an official told Reuters.

Bannon is getting some of the blame for the administration's early stumbles because, one former adviser told Reuters, "The president demands results." In what was viewed as a sign of Bannon's declining influence, he was removed from his seat on the National Security Council this week. Administration officials said this was done at the urging of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, with whom Bannon had clashed.