As US President Donald Trump grappled with a public health crisis that could threaten his re-election, his former chief strategist was across the street from the White House dining with a group of like-minded Europeans and Latin Americans to plot the next wave of a global surge in right-wing populism.
Steve Bannon, an architect of Trump’s 2016 victory who became a senior White House aide, hosted the dinner Wednesday night for Nigel Farage, a key figure in the movement that led to Brexit; Jérôme Rivière, a leader in France’s right-wing National Rally party and member of the European Parliament; Eduardo Bolsonaro, a son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro; and Eduardo Verastegui, an actor and staunch Roman Catholic who’s considering a run for president of Mexico.
Raheem Kassam, a former editor at Breitbart News, of which Bannon was executive chairman, co-hosted the dinner at the Hay-Adams hotel.
He indicated the purpose of the gathering was “to bring together the great economic nationalist voices from around the world, not just to celebrate the victories of recent years and honor Nigel Farage for the Brexit achievement, but also to look ahead for 2020 and beyond.”
Farage told the other guests that he wasn’t content with just Britain leaving the European Union – his goal is to turn the EU into a “Europe of sovereign nations.” He proclaimed he’s setting up an office and will tour Europe spreading his message to build support in other countries to abandon the EU, one guest said.
Eduardo Bolsonaro highlighted the ideological “bridge” between his father and Trump, who he said share a nationalist agenda and approach, according to a recording of the event heard by Bloomberg News.
Verastegui talked about his use of art to drive politics and laid out a campaign to run as a right-wing populist nationalist for the Mexican presidency, though the term of the incumbent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, doesn’t end until 2024.
The participants chiefly celebrated their recent successes, but “the key strategy point was this is the beginning of a group that will knit together populist nationalists throughout the world with the motto ‘you are not alone,’” Bannon stressed.
“Last night’s dinner was another great milestone in the project dear to our heart – putting our nations first again,” Riviere expressed. “Thanks to Steve Bannon’s efforts, patriots of all parts of the world are not isolated. We closely work together for the benefit of our people.”
Trump brought Bannon to the White House after his stunning triumph over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Although he became a powerful and highly visible presence in the new administration, Trump took a dim view of perceptions that Bannon was an alt-right Svengali.
A Time magazine cover labeling Bannon “The Great Manipulator” hurt his standing, as did his portrayal as a key to the president’s electoral success in a book by Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Joshua Green.
Bannon was fired in August 2017, weeks after John Kelly took over as White House chief of staff.
He returned to Breitbart. But in early 2018, the president became enraged at his former strategist over remarks in Fire and Fury, a book by Michael Wolff about the tumultuous early days of the Trump administration.
According to the book, Bannon labelled as “treasonous” Donald Trump Jr.’s and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s 2016 meeting with Russian nationals in which the president’s son expected to receive dirt on Clinton.
Wolff also reported that Bannon called Trump’s daughter Ivanka “dumb as a brick.”
The shockwaves over Fire and Fury soon rippled to Breitbart, and Bannon left there after losing the support of the conservative Mercer family, who had been backers of the news site.
He has since turned his attention to encouraging right-wing populist movements in other countries.