On a whirlwind tour around the globe, Trump’s former aide and alter ego reveals what really went down in the White House, his unfettered thoughts on Javanka, his complicated relationship with his erstwhile boss—and his own political ambitions.
Around the time Donald Trump took off from the Philippines aboard Air Force One at the end of his 12-day Asia tour, Stephen K. Bannon touched down at Tokyo International Airport. It was the evening of November 14, and the president’s former chief strategist flew to Japan to deliver a hard-edged anti-China speech at a conference for human-rights activists. “I’m not really a human-rights guy,” he told me as we boarded the plane in New York. “But this is a chance to talk to them about populism.”
A polite airline representative whisked Bannon and his entourage through the terminal. Tej Gill, a goateed ex-Navy SEAL security guard with tattoo-sleeved arms, stuck close by Bannon’s side. “I’ve had a couple assassination plots,” Bannon told me, “I got it from an intelligence source.” They were trailed by a short, barrel-chested ex-SEAL in a knit beanie cap, by a videographer named Dan Fleuette who co-wrote Bannon’s documentary Clinton Cash, and a redheaded body man, Bannon’s 26-year-old nephew, Sean. In moments we were escorted through a V.I.P. immigration lane and into an elevator that descends to an underground garage, where a motorcade awaited. Bannon climbed into the back seat of a black BMW 7 Series and sped off towards the Peninsula hotel to catch a few hours of sleep. The rest of the staff followed in a pair of minivans.
The next morning, Bannon was pacing in front of a packed auditorium in a squat building on the grounds of the Olympic Village built for the ‘64 Tokyo Summer Games. “I feel like I’m at a Trump rally!” he said, pointing out a young woman sporting a Make America Great Again hat. For the next hour, Bannon held court, microphone in hand. “The elites in our country have been under a very false premise that as China became more prosperous and economically developed that there would be an underlying increase in democracy,” he said. “What we found out over the last decade is the exact opposite has happened.” He speculated that dark unseen forces are at work. “The question has to be asked: Are the elites in the United States that stupid? Did people actually sit there year after year after year and not understand what was going on? Or was something else going on? Were these elites either bought off or did they just look the other way? That question is going to have to be answered.”