Donald Trump’s no Islamophobe or isolationist, Steve Bannon says

WASHINGTON — In a full-throated defense of President Donald Trump's foreign policy, former White House adviser Steve Bannon said Monday that Trump is neither an isolationist nor an Islamophobe and that Trump deserves credit for destroying the ISIS' caliphate in the Middle East.

It was Trump who set the mission by writing a line in his inaugural address — ignoring the concerns of some advisers — in which he promised to "eradicate ... radical Islamic terrorism," Bannon said. When he was warned that was too big a promise to make, Trump replied, "This is my obligation to the American people," Bannon said.

That led to a strategy against ISIS that administration officials looked at as a "war of annihilation" rather than a "war of attrition."

"That's what he accomplished," Bannon said.

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White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon speaks with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump arrive for their joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks walk along the colonnade ahead of a joint press conference by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (R) and Senior Counselor Steve Bannon board Air Force One at West Palm Beach International airport in West Palm Beach, Florida U.S., February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon (L) and senior aide Kellyanne Conway speak at meeting hosted by Trump with cyber security experts in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington January 31, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
FILE PHOTO: Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon (L) sits with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (C) and senior advisor Stephen Miller during a swearing-in ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump (L-R), joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump signs a memorandum to security services directing them to defeat the Islamic State in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. Pictured with him are White House senior advisor Steve Bannon (L-R), National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Vice President Mike Pence, Deputy National Security Advisor K. T. McFarland, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, National Security Council Chief of Staff Keith Kellogg and senior advisor Kellyanne Conway. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist for US President-elect Donald Trump, talks on the phone outside Trump Tower in New York on December 9, 2016.

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (R) and senior counselor Steve Bannon (L) hold meetings at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 28, 2016.

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon is pictured backstage during a campaign event in Eau Claire, Wisconsin U.S. November 1, 2016.

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon (R) is pictured talking to a reporter after a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. October 29, 2016.

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon holds a campaign rally the Reno-Sparks Convention Center November 5, 2016 in Reno, Nevada. With less than a week before Election Day in the United States, Trump and his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, are campaigning in key battleground states that each must win to take the White House.

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign CEO Steve Bannon (C) listens to Trump speak during his final campaign rally on Election Day in the Devos Place November 8, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Trump's marathon last day of campaigning stretched past midnight and into Election Day.

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Steve Bannon gets off the plane with US President-elect Donald Trump arrives at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Kentucky, for the start of the 'USA Thank You Tour' at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016.

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Steve Bannon, chief strategist for Donal Trump, leaves after the motorcade of US President-elect arrived at Trump Tower on December 10, 2016 in New York.

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Steve Bannon, (L) chief strategist for Donal Trump, exits Trump Tower on December 13, 2016 in New York.

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Steve Bannon, senior counselor to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, arrives to attend meetings between Trump and business leaders at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 28, 2016.

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Pressed on that conclusion, the former Trump adviser acknowledged that "it was done with allies" and argued the model shows "it's not going to be America that has to lead" all the time.

Bannon's remarks, delivered in an interview with former Pakistan Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani at a Hudson Institute conference, were notably more about Trump and less about his Republican adversaries than recent Bannon speeches.

Instead, he offered what might be a preview of the way Republican allies of the president will talk about his foreign policy in next year's midterm elections.

Trump's speech at an Arab summit earlier this year, Bannon said, is evidence that he's neither isolationist nor Islamophobic — and that his supporters aren't either.

That speech "put to bed, or should have put to bed, [the idea] that Trump was an Islamophobe."

The rhetoric of Trump and his allies about Muslims has been cited when courts have blocked repeated White House efforts to implement a travel ban.

The idea that Trump's "America First" slogan signals isolationism is "total nonsense," Bannon said.

"What's in the vital national security interests of the United States is what you should commit to...I don't think there's anything President Trump has done in this administration that makes us look isolationist at all."

On trade, he said, the president simply doesn't want America to be one of many nations at the negotiating table if that means compromising on U.S. interests.

While Bannon largely avoided domestic politics on Monday, he closed with a swing at former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who each gave speeches last week widely perceived as harsh condemnations of Trump. Bannon called their remarks "pablum."

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