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Steve Bannon Returns With New Film


Steve Bannon has been mostly out of the picture since being fired by President Trump more than a year ago. But now he's back, and he has a new film.


PETE HEGSETH: The left wants to undo our country. They want to take away the freedoms we have.

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: We have created 2.4 million new jobs.

HEGSETH: 2018 is a referendum as to whether or not a duly elected president is allowed to do his job.

SEBASTIAN GORKA: The president is unstoppable, but he's only one man.

TRUMP: You know, this is tough stuff. We're fighting a war.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The film is called "Trump @ War." Jeremy Peters is a reporter for The New York Times who's covered Bannon for a while now. And he joins us while he's on the road. Welcome to the program.

JEREMY PETERS: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I have not seen "Trump @ War." I like the scoring there. It sounds like something out of "The Omen." You have, and it sounds dramatic.

PETERS: It is. I know - that music makes it sound like it's a Bruckheimer movie or something. But I think what Steve Bannon always understood well and part of the reason that he and Trump always saw eye to eye is they shared this belief that Trumpism (ph) and the people who subscribe to Trump's beliefs and the direction he wanted to take the country in were always going to be under siege. Now, I think a lot of that is exaggerated, but in the case of this midterm election - in this context, it certainly isn't because if the Democrats take the House, one thing that Steve Bannon is right about is Trumpism as we know it is under threat.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is this not just a propaganda film? I mean, even in the clip we just heard, there's an untruth about job creation under Trump.

PETERS: Steve Bannon is one of the more astute followers of propaganda that I think we've seen in modern American politics. And even he would not dispute the notion that this is a pure propaganda film.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Bannon has had a lot of success with these kinds of things. He had a film that he produced before the 2016 election called "Clinton Cash," and it propelled a narrative that made it into the mainstream media and is credited with helping Trump into the White House. And he's made, you know, other conservative documentaries, for lack of a better word. Is this one any different than those?

PETERS: I think the stakes are higher with this one. And certainly, this one will get if not more attention, as much attention as the ones did during the campaign. I mean, these were always films that were meant for a relatively small audience. As Bannon likes to say, the purpose of this project is to, quote, "jack up the deplorables," meaning that these people who love President Trump but who feel like they are looked down on by the liberals, by the media elites, as they like to say. This is really aimed at igniting their passions and driving them to the polls. Now, whether or not that ends up happening I think is a totally open question.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How does this fit into the broader Republican strategy? Is the Republican establishment happy to see him and have his help?

PETERS: (Laughter) No, not at all. I think there was a sense of relief when Bannon was forced out of the White House and then left Breitbart under pressure that he wasn't going to be meddling in American politics anymore. His emergence back on the scene is not something that is at all a welcome sight to people like Mitch McConnell and the House Republican leadership because they think that he is going to alienate the very types of independent-minded, suburban voters, especially women, that this election may very well hinge on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jeremy Peters is a reporter for The New York Times, and he covers Steve Bannon, among other things. Thank you so much.

PETERS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.