WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has called three GOP incumbent senators to offer his support after they've come in the crosshairs of former White House adviser Steve Bannon's anti-establishment campaign.
Trump made the calls on Wednesday to Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, all of whom are running for re-election. The calls were confirmed by a Republican Senate aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose the private conversations.
The three lawmakers are among Bannon's targets as he searches for primary opponents against incumbent Republican senators he views as overly establishment. Bannon has vowed to try to primary every Senate Republican up for re-election, with the exception of Ted Cruz of Texas.
In a recent interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity Bannon said, "Even safe incumbents like Barrasso and Deb Fischer, they have to understand something — just voting is not good enough, you have to have a sense of urgency."
Bannon was forced out as Trump's top White House strategist in August and returned to running conservative Breitbart News, using the post to wage a war against the establishment and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bannon claims his campaign is aimed at helping Trump by electing senators who will strongly support his agenda, which Bannon contends McConnell does not. McConnell's allies note the majority leader has devoted himself to trying to pass Trump-backed health legislation, albeit unsuccessfully, and is now at work on a tax package supported by Trump.
Trump and McConnell met Monday and put on a show of unity despite past frictions including Trump's attacks on McConnell over the health care failure. During their joint press conference, Trump was asked about Bannon's campaign and said he would try to intervene with his former strategist on behalf of some incumbents.
"Some of the people that he may be looking at, I'm going to see if we talk him out of that, because frankly, they're great people," Trump said at the time.
During the calls on Wednesday, Trump said he would be trying to talk Bannon down, according to the GOP aide.
The calls were first reported by Politico.