Multiple reports Wednesday cited White House sources claiming President Donald Trump is “embarrassed” over the outcome of Tuesday’s Alabama U.S. Senate election and understands he made a mistake in endorsing, along with Chamber of Commerce and Republican leadership, Luther Strange over Judge Roy Moore.
Trump “knew [endorsing Strange] was a mistake but one he was willing to make because Luther was loyal,” a senior White House official told CNN. A person familiar with his mindset said the President went to bed “embarrassed and pissed.”
Reportedly, Stephen K. Bannon, Breitbart News executive chairman and, until recently, Trump’s own White House chief strategist, was a particular focus of the president’s anger over Roy Moore’s landslide victory. Bannon pulled out all the stops to rally pro-Moore forces in the closing days of the campaign, making multiple TV appearances, and working to bring a team of populist-nationalist all-stars to the Yellowhammer state for Moore, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, ex-UKIP leader Nigel “Mr. Brexit” Farage, Duck Commander founder Phil Robertson, and fellow ex-White House adviser Dr. Sebastian Gorka.
“The president complained about Bannon’s aggressive moves on Moore’s behalf, as well as about the political advice he got from aides inside the White House,” people who spoke with Trump reportedly told Politico.
According to Politico:
Bannon’s aggressive moves and television appearances in the race on Moore’s behalf, along with his appearance at a rally backing Moore on Monday, especially upset Trump, who was also annoyed that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and his former White House aide Sebastian Gorka rallied for Moore.
Bannon and his ad hoc grassroots conservative strike team had gone out of their way, in their aggressive campaigning for Moore, to emphasize their continued support for President Trump and the agenda that sent him to the White House. For example, Palin exhorted the crowd at Thursday’s post-debate train-yard rally that, “A vote for Judge Moore isn’t a vote against the president. It’s a vote for the people’s agenda that elected the president,” as she warned against the political class “hijacking” the Trump election victory.
Gorka also emphasized that supporting Moore was a loyal move for Trump supporters like him. He told Fox News’s Brett Baier on Friday:
The president has gone with the forces of the establishment on this one candidate. But guess what happens – when Judge Moore wins on Tuesday, it will strengthen the president, because now he’ll be able to go to the establishment GOP – to the swamp dwellers and say, ‘Hey guys, we are back on my agenda. This wasn’t worth it.’
Despite his reported frustrations with the defeat of his chosen candidate, Trump appeared Tuesday to have come around to Gorka’s way of thinking on the matter:
Trump’s endorsement of Strange was seen as suspect by elements of the president’s populist base from the outset. In retrospect, the decision appears to have made on advice from anti-populist elements both outside the administration, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and within the White House, like senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Moore’s massive win, despite Trump’s loyalty to Strange, appears to have left the president skeptical of this kind of advice. As Politico put it, the Moore victory “sent a signal that the deep-red Republicans who voted [Trump] into the White House won’t necessarily follow his lead — a notion he hates … It left the president, who cares about winning and being associated with winners, frustrated and sometimes visibly annoyed.”