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“I Want to Make Sure I Don’t Wake Up with a Horse Head in the Bed Next to Me.”
Trump World fears that retribution for talking will be like a scene straight out of “The Godfather”
Former White House senior strategist Stephen Bannon leaves the Federal District Court House after being found guilty of being in contempt of Congress on July 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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Last Friday—just before a jury in DC found former White House chief strategist Stephen (Steve) Bannon guilty of contempt of Congress because he had not answered the subpoena issued over nine months ago by the Jan. 6 Committee to testify about his part in the insurrection on the Capitol—I spoke to a former person in the Trump orbit who, unlike Bannon, had testified to the committee. (As we know, there are now a growing number of these.) This person, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, told me that, following their own testimony, they had had a very unpleasant conversation with Bannon.
This person told me that Bannon had “gone off the deep end at me.” I’m not going to get into specifics out of fear of identifying this person, but the implication was that this person was A.) stupid and B.) disloyal.
That conversation, according to my source, took place before Bannon himself did a u-turn on July 9 and suddenly offered to testify, his lawyer stating that Trump had just issued a waiver so the “executive privilege” Bannon had claimed bound him to silence and unable to appear before the committee was moot.
The committee did not buy it.
According to the New York Times, Justin Clark, a former White House lawyer, testified to the committee that Trump “never invoked executive privilege over any particular information or materials” and that Bannon’s lawyer “misrepresented to the committee what the former president’s counsel had told the defendant’s attorney.”
So, by the end of Friday afternoon, Bannon was convicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress and now stands to go to jail for up to two years, depending on his sentence.
Publicly, Bannon was smiling, triumphant almost. Wearing his trademark layers of shirts and spitting out words more quickly than people could follow them (another trademark), he railed against the Jan. 6 hearings wherever he could—outside the courthouse, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and on his War Room podcast—and about how the rule of law had been politicized against him and how his appeal would begin. On and on. He was careful not to appear to make this about him but about politics itself.
But of course it was all about him.
People sometimes forget Bannon has a background in Hollywood. He is a consummate performer. I know for a fact that many mainstream media journalists, myself included, have whiled away time listening to Bannon’s re-enactments of Trumpian scenes because his dramatic flare is entertaining even if his politics, arguably, are not. Bannon relishes the association with Hollywood. A few years ago, he told me that, when he checked into hotels, it was either under “Alec Guinness” or “William Holden”—both of whom starred in the wartime epic “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”
But who is Bannon when there are no cameras or microphones?
After the jury declared the verdict, my source phoned me again and left a message saying that if I told this story, please would I protect their identity because “Bannon is so far off the deep end, I don’t know what level of craziness he might go to. I want to make sure I don’t wake up with a horse head in the bed next to me.”
The source is referring to the most infamously awful scene in The Godfather, in which the Godfather’s consigliere (played by Robert Duvall) “persuades” someone to do something they don’t want to by leaving a severed horse’s head in their bed.
That’s not quite the magnanimous, long-suffering role of martyr we’ve seen Bannon play on television in the last few days.
And it’s certainly antithetical in nature to what became Alec Guinness’s signature line from Star Wars: “May the Force be with you.”