Jared Kushner details his clashes with Steve Bannon in his new book, describing a “toxic” West Wing presence who accused him of “undermining the President’s agenda” and threatened to break him “in half” if Kushner turned on him.
The detailed account in the memoir – set to be published next month – provides fresh insight into the pernicious environment inside former President Donald Trump’s West Wing. Coming just as the former President gears up for a 2024 campaign, excerpts from the book reveal how viciously the Trump team turned on one another from the earliest days of the administration, and how distrust and resentment affected every aspect of governing.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser writes that Bannon once yelled and threatened him in the Cabinet Room after Gary Cohn, a senior economic adviser, informed Kushner that Bannon was leaking negative information about him.
“Steve, you gotta stop leaking on Gary,” Kushner said he told Bannon. “We’re trying to build a team here.”
Kushner writes that Bannon responded: “‘Cohn’s the one leaking on me. … Jared, right now, you’re the one undermining the President’s agenda,’ he continued, his eyes intense and voice escalating into a yell. ‘And if you go against me, I will break you in half. Don’t f— with me.’”
In “Breaking History: A White House Memoir,” Kushner questions his own response and says he was “woefully unprepared” after Bannon, “a black belt in the dark arts of media manipulation,” declared war on him. CNN has reached out to a spokesman for Bannon on Kushner’s book.
Once, Kushner writes, he was urged by Reince Preibus – Trump’s first chief of staff – to call a reporter from the New York Times to ward off a story that Priebus and Bannon had been kicked off an Air Force One trip amid Trump’s unhappiness with his senior staff.
“Why are you coming to Florida for the day? I don’t need you there. Stay here,” Kushner says Trump told Priebus and Bannon, before referencing then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“There was no reason for Sessions to recuse himself, and this is going to unleash a disaster,” Trump said, according to Kushner.
But after Kushner phoned Maggie Haberman of the New York Times at Priebus’ urging, he says Bannon exploded on him.
“How f—ing dare you leak on me? If you leak out on me, I can leak out on you 28 ways from Sunday,” Bannon said, according to Kushner.
Kushner describes how Trump soured on Bannon before eventually firing him in August 2017. Kushner joked to one friend that it was one of his biggest accomplishments, adding that he realized that “just surviving wasn’t enough” and says he recommitted himself “to finding a way to make my service count.”
“Admitting that I didn’t yet have any major policy successes to show for my seven months in government, I joked, ‘At least I was able to get Steve Bannon fired. That partially saves the world from immediate disaster,’” Kushner writes, noting that his friend told him, “You don’t get credit for that…you’re supposed to do that.”
West Wing aides mocked Bannon’s responsibilities following his departure.
“Stephen Miller joked to Hope and me, ‘I have a plan to split up Steve Bannon’s extensive workload. Hope, you leak to Jonathan Swan at Axios. Jared, you call Mike Bender from the Wall Street Journal. I’ll call Jeremy Peters from the New York Times, and … we’re done,’” Kushner writes.
One of Trump’s final acts in office was pardoning Bannon, who had been charged with defrauding donors of more than a million dollars as part of a fundraising campaign purportedly aimed at supporting Trump’s border wall. Despite their acrimonious past, Kushner says he didn’t oppose the pardon, citing his own father, Charles Kushner, who also received a pardon from Trump.
“Seriously?” Trump said to Kushner, according to the book. “You would really be for that? After everything he did to you?”
“Bannon single-handedly caused more problems for me than anyone else in my time in Washington. He probably leaked and lied about me more than everyone else combined. He played dirty and dragged me into the mud of the Russia investigation. But now that he was in trouble, I felt like helping him was the right thing to do,” Kushner writes.
Last week, Bannon was convicted of two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to testify or provide documents for the Jan. 6 committee.