Like him or loathe him, Donald Trump was democratically elected by American voters but much of the power in the White House belongs to a man who never went before the people — Steve Bannon.
To understand Trump it’s necessary to understand his team and understanding Team Trump means understanding Steve Bannon.
Bannon, 63, once dubbed “the most dangerous political operative in America,” began life as a Kennedy Democrat in an Irish-American family in Virginia. He traces some of his ancestry to Clare. He also has links to Limerick — his third wife, whom he divorced in 2009, was Diane Clohessy, a model, from Castletroy in Limerick.
Bannon, like many Irish-American Democrats at the time, morphed in the early 1980s into a “Reagan Democrat” by supporting Republican president Ronald Reagan.
Now he is Trump’s chief strategist and is increasingly seen as the toughest, most ruthless and most powerful member of the president’s inner circle. While some, like National Security Adviser retired General Mike Flynn, may fall along the way, Bannon is likely to endure for some time to come.
THE INNER CIRCLE:
Bannon’s rise was so deftly handled during the presidential campaign that only those who followed the minutiae of US politics knew about his pivotal role in crafting Trump’s victory, a win that relied on exploiting voters’ fears about jobs and low wages by tapping demagoguery and xenophobia.
It was classic Bannon, a man who sees America and most of the rest of the world under threat from dark forces ready to consume it unless they’re forcefully confronted. And he sees Trump as his perfect vehicle for this mission.
Diplomacy plays little part in Bannon’s worldview, which he has spelled out clearly in documentaries, interviews and speeches, especially during his tenure as chief of the Breitbart News website, noted for its connections to the “alt-right” or far-right movement in America.
It was Bannon himself who described Breitbart News as a platform for the alt-right though he disputes the charge that he or the website embrace racism or anti-Semitism and rejects the view of critics who say he will bring the extreme views of the far right into the White House.
But whatever one thinks of his views, Bannon can never be accused of hiding them or muting them. Remarks he delivered by Skype to a conference inside the Vatican in the summer of 2014 were peppered with references to battles and wars and the urgency to enjoin them.
He suggested the West was facing a “crisis of capitalism” after losing its “Judeo-Christian” foundation. “We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict,” he declared, and said people should be ready “not just to stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.” Such talk of conflict feeds into his belief in a dystopian theory called “The Fourth Turning” expounded by two US authors, William Strauss and the late Neil Howe, who in the 1990s wrote about an 80-year cycle in American history, punctuated by great crises that destroyed an old order and created a new one.
They identified these crises as the American Revolution, the American Civil War and the lead up to the Second World War and predicted another great crisis sometime in the first 15 years of the 21st century.
Bannon, who now sits on President Trump’s National Security Council dealing with issues and crises of national and international security, believes, as he told his Vatican audience, that America and the wider world is now in the midst of another great crisis, or a “Fourth Turning”.
There may well be some truth to that theory. Certainly, the old order in America has been shaken to its core by Trump’s ascendancy. But whether Trump and Bannon are the men to lead their country out of such a crisis is a hypothesis many find alarming.
“Apocalyptic rhetoric and apocalyptic thinking flourish during crisis periods,” warned historian and Harvard lecturere David Kaiser. “This represents perhaps the biggest danger of the Trump presidency and one that will bear watching from all concerned citizens in the months and years ahead.”
While Time magazine has proclaimed Bannon the second most powerful man alive he came to the White House, like his boss, with no experience of politics or elective office. He joined the US Navy after college, spending four years at sea.
After he left the Navy he become an investment banker with Goldman Sachs and later moved into the media world to take over Breitbart News.
To consolidate his grip on power Bannon has also brought some “Breitbarts” on board his White House team, among them Sebastian Gorka, a former national security editor at Breitbart and now deputy assistant to Trump. Julia Hahn, a hardline immigration writer for Breitbart, is also to join the team as a special assistant to the president.
Bannon himself is rarely far from Trump’s side. His fingerprints were all over the president’s early blitz of executive orders and he has become so powerful that some in Washington have begun referring to him as “President Bannon”.
The first weeks of Trump’s presidency have sometimes been described as chaotic, beginning with his twitter tirades against the media for perceived slights, including accusations of playing down the size of his inauguration crowds, all the way up to tweets on more serious issues like his attack on a “so-called judge” for halting his executive order banning refugees from Syria as well as a 90-day ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. Then there is the ever-evolving Russia saga.
But such chaos may well have been part of Bannon’s plan. After all this is a man who once vowed to “bring everything crashing down”.
In a statement to the Daily Beast in 2013, Bannon proclaimed: “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment”.
Working side by side with Bannon is senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, 30, who along with Bannon, helped to write Trump’s “America First” inauguration speech. The term heartened some who saw it as pledging to put their jobs and security first, but others recalled a time, especially during the Second World War, when it was linked to isolationism and even anti-Semitism.
Miller also raised some eyebrows in remarks on a CBS news programme on February 12 when he dismissed criticism of Trump’s national security decisions like those on immigration. “The powers of the President to protect our country,” he declared, “are very substantial and will not be questioned.”
Trump refers to both advisers as “my two Steves” but, unlike Bannon, Miller is an experienced Washington insider.
He was the right hand man of Senator Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and worked behind the scenes to sink immigration reform in 2014 that could have led to a path to citizenship for illegals, some 50,000 of whom are Irish.
The vice president is a hardline conservative, whose Capitol Hill experience makes him indispensible to the politically inexperienced Trump team. The 57-year-old is tough and decisive so it was easy to see that once he discovered Flynn had failed to tell him the truth about the Russian phone call it was only a matter of time before Flynn had to fall on his sword, becoming the first casualty in the nascent administration.
But, as the controversy over Flynn’s call engulfs the administration, the president will be looking to Pence to try to smooth the waters with Republican leaders over the affair, especially as questions are being increasingly asked about how much Trump himself knew about the Flynn phone call with the Russian ambassador and who else in the administration might have been privy to the details.
Adam Schiff, the senior Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, has made clear that the controversy is far from over. “Flynn’s departure does not end questions over his contacts with the Russians,” he said in a statement when the issue erupted.
“These alleged contacts and any others the Trump campaign may have had with the Kremlin are the subject of the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing investigation...the Trump administration has yet to be forthcoming about who was aware of Flynn’s conversations with the ambassador and whether he was acting on the instructions of the President or any other officials, or with their knowledge.”
So Pence has much work to do on Capitol Hill as questions about the extent of Russia’s alleged role in Trump’s victory continue to be asked by Republicans as well as Democrats.
The former Indiana governor, who visited Ireland three years ago, calls himself a proud Irish-American.
His grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, emigrated from Co Sligo in 1923 and his great-grandmother came from Co Clare.
Pence is the man the Republican establishment looks to keep a watchful eye on Trump, as well as Bannon, so that they don’t veer too far from party orthodoxy.
He is seen as a true conservative, a smooth operator and, above all, a party loyalist.
Jared Kushner, 36, Trump’s senior adviser, is also the president’s trusted son-in-law and his booster-in-chief, whom the president trusts implicidly.
Kushner, a New York real estate developer and publisher whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, has always shown complete loyalty to Trump since he became part of the family when he married the president’s daughter, Ivanka, in 2009.
He has championed Trump from the beginning of his White House campaign in 2015 and was credited with solidifying conservative Jewish support for the president.
Trump says Kushner could play a major role in brokering a peace deal in the Middle East. Kushner, like his father-in-law, however, has come to the White House team with neither political nor diplomatic experience.
Like Trump, Kushner was born into wealth. His father, Charles Kushner, was a successful real estate developer. Though Jared did not perform especially well academically, he was accepted to Harvard after his father reportedly gave $2.5m to the university. That was before his father was imprisoned for tax fraud, witness tampering, and illegal campaign donations, in a case in which then New Jersey governor Chris Christie played a central role in 2004.
The witness-tampering charge arose from Charles Kushner’s act of retaliation against William Schulder, husband of his sister Esther, who was co-operating with federal investigators. Kushner hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, arranged for an encounter between the two to be secretly recorded and then had the tape sent to his sister. Kushner was released from prison in 2006.
A decade later, as a senior White House adviser to Trump, Kushner’s son Jared executed his revenge on Christie by freezing him out of any White House role.
He is also known to be wary of Bannon’s increasing power and influence, while Bannon himself is seeking to align himself with Kushner in order to strengthen his hand with Trump. Such tensions within Trump’s inner circle often seem to be at boiling point. Yet they also feed a dynamic that appeals to the president: a jostling power structure with competing ideas.
The man essentially holding the White House power structure together is Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, 45, the former Republican National Committee chairman, who almost alone in the inner circle has the kind of political experience so lacking in Bannon and Kushner and so essential in Washington.
Priebus was in many ways Trump’s kingmaker before Bannon came on board as the campaign CEO.
When Trump was cold-shouldered by top Republicans during episodes like the Apprentice tapes in which he boasted about being able to grope women, Priebus stood with him and earlier choreographed the nominating convention that made him the party’s nominee.
Indeed, back then Bannon and Priebus, along with Kellyanne Conway, were the primary trio keeping the show on the road—though now, as Trump’s counselor, Conway is better known as the person who introduced the world to the phrase “alternative facts”.
Like Conway, the White House Press Secretary, 45, has the unenviable job of putting the best face on any slip-ups by the administration.
Amid such diversions, Priebus is battling to keep his eye on the ball. Along with Pence, he is constantly moving between the White House and Capitol Hill as the link to Republican leaders there, especially Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan in pushing Trump’s legislative priorities “to create an economy that works for everyone, secure our borders, repeal and replace Obamacare and destroy radical Islamic terrorism.” Certainly, Priebus has his work cut out for him. Many senior Republicans are still cool towards Trump so he will have to massage egos there while at the same time keeping any further power grab by Bannon in check.
If Priebus pushes too hard to change Trump and bring him more in line with Republican orthodoxy, however, he could find himself in trouble and already there are rumblings from some close to the administration that he may be in above his head. As chief of staff he looks especially vulnerable after Flynn’s fall and, along with Bannon, is getting much of the blame for allowing the issue to fester and then explode.
But Priebus is not fighting his corner alone. Another powerful member of the inner circle and a useful ally for Prebius is Jeff Sessions, who also backed Trump’s presidential bid at a time when he had few political allies in Washington.
Trump has succeeded in wooing a host of generals to his side. This is not that unusual in new administrations. After winning the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama also appointed three retired generals to top positions.
Chief among Trump’s generals was Mike Flynn, who was his National Security Adviser (NSA) until his resignation under a cloud on February 13.
Trump was slow to let him go because the president values loyalty and Flynn had certainly been a loyal ally. It was Flynn who pumped up the crowds at campaign rallies, calling for Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to be jailed. One of his favourite lines was: “We do not need a reckless president who believes she’s above the law. Lock her up. Lock her up.” But now Trump, who likes to invoke “extreme vetting” for immigrants, may wish he had adopted the same policy with Flynn.
The President’s other three generals who make up “the intelligence trio” are: retired Marine general John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary; retired general James Mattis, Defence Secretary; and West Point graduate Mike Pompeo, CIA director.
There have been reports that both Homeland Security Secretary Kelly and Defence Secretary Mattis are less than happy with how some policy developments have been handled by the White House.
During the transition, Mattis clashed with the Trump team over some appointments to the defence department, while Kelly told a House of Representatives committee that the administration should have taken more time to inform Congress before implementing its executive order temporarily blocking entry of people from seven Muslim-majority nations.
One of Kelly’s jobs will be the future of Trump’s planned wall to keep out Mexican immigrants. A recent report by Kelly’s department says that the wall along the border with Mexico would likely cost over $21bn and take more than three years to build.
Immigration will be another major issue. Kelly is already in the firing line over raids across the country that rounded up hundreds of illegal immigrants, though he said he didn’t see it as a round-up. “They’re not rounding anyone up,” Kelly said at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana. “The people that ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] apprehend are people who are illegal, and then some.”
Kelly’s comments followed growing fear and confusion for some immigrants and their families and advocacy groups amid the court battles over the administration’s proposed ban on immigrants from the seven majority-Muslim nations.
Trump has also vowed to deport some three million undocumented immigrants who have criminal records. “It is not unlike some of the things [former president Barack] Obama did [he deported 2.5m], but it’s ramped up and worse,” said Terri Burke of the American Civil Liberties Union. In all, there are an estimated 11m undocumented immigrants in the US, about 50,000 of whom are Irish.
Trump is known to especially admire Mattis, 66, and likes to refer to his Defence Secretary as the “closest thing we have to General George Patton [the legendary Second World War US general].” Trump also likes to call him by the nickname “Mad Dog Mattis.” Mattis came in for some criticism in 2005, when, according to an audio recording of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press, he said at a forum in San Diego about strategies for the war against terror: “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”
He added: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil...You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
Mattis may have surprised Trump, however, when he told him he rejects the notion that torture is an effective instrument, telling the president he believed he could better elicit information with cigarettes and beer than with waterboarding.
Former military personnel must take a seven-year break from active duty before leading the Pentagon, but Trump signed a waiver that allowed Mattis, who retired from the military in 2013, to take up his post.
CIA Director Pompeo is a former Kansas congressman and a member of the far right Tea Party Movement within the Republican party. He is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and has served as a cavalry officer.
Pompeo opposes closing Guantanamo Bay detention camp and in the past has criticised the Obama administration’s decision to end the CIA’s secret prisons overseas (so-called “black sites”), and the requirement that all interrogators adhere to anti-torture laws.
Trump has been critical of intelligence agencies since their assessment of Russian involvement to help him win the election, but he also has said he is fully behind them.
In written responses to questions from the Senate during his confirmation, Pompeo said only intelligence agency assessments in general should be taken seriously. After Trump conceded Russia was behind the campaign hacks, Pompeo later told the Senate intelligence committee that particular assessment was “solid.”
The appointment of McMaster, who replaced Mike Flynn as the national security adviser on February 20, was widely hailed as a strong appointment because McMaster is a highly regarded military tactician and strategic thinker. He was the author of the book Dereliction of Duty in 1997, which criticised the actions of high-ranking US military leadership during the Vietnam War. His record shows he is not afraid to speak his mind but whether that will serve him well with his new boss remains to be seen.
President Trump was this week forced to defend Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “an honest man” amid calls for him to quit.
The Democrats say Sessions “lied on oath” at his confirmation hearing about contacts with the Russian ambassador.
The president said Sessions “could have stated his response more accurately but it was clearly not intentional” and accused Democrats of a “witch hunt”.
However, Sessions has removed himself from an FBI probe into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.
The Democrats have maintained their attacks on Sessions, saying his explanation regarding his contacts with the Russian ambassador in 2016 were “simply not credible”.
There was uproar on Thursday when the Washington Post revealed that he failed to disclose during the confirmation hearings that he twice met the Russian ambassador while acting as a close adviser to Trump during last year’s presidential campaign.
A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed the conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak took place but said “there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer” to the question. That has not quieted the controversy, however, and Sessions will be painfully aware that a similar flap over Mike Flynn’s meetings with the same ambassador led to his firing.
In 2005, Sessions spoke at a rally in Washington in favour of the war in Iraq organised in opposition to an anti-war protest held the day before. He said of the anti-war protesters: “The group who spoke here the other day did not represent the American ideals of freedom, liberty and spreading that around the world. I frankly don’t know what they represent, other than to blame America first.”
The same year, he opposed legislation by Senator John McCain prohibiting the US military from engaging in torture, an amendment that passed by a vote of 90–9.
Sessions was also the leading congressional proponent of reducing legal immigration. He led the fight in the Senate against comprehensive immigration reform acts in 2006, in 2007 and in 2013.
Sessions was a major policy adviser to the Trump campaign, especially on immigration and national security. “From immigration and health care to national security and trade, Sessions is the intellectual godfather of the president’s policies,” according to the Washington Post.
“His reach extends throughout the White House, with his aides and allies accelerating the president’s most dramatic moves, including the ban on refugees and citizens from seven mostly Muslim nations that has triggered fear around the globe.” Bannon described Sessions as “the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy” in Trump’s administration, saying he and the senator are at the centre of Trump’s “pro-America movement”.
Another major power player is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, 65, the former ExxonMobil CEO whose close ties to Russia sparked alarm among some senators at his confirmation hearings to become the nation’s top diplomat.
In 2013, Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by President Putin for his contribution to developing co-operation in the energy sector, and his relationship with Russia was a focal point at the Senate confirmation hearings. He referred to economic sanctions against Russia as a “powerful tool” and rejected the claims that he and ExxonMobil, under his leadership, lobbied against them to advance the company’s interests. When asked by Senator Marco Rubio whether Putin should be labelled a war criminal, Tillerson said, “I would not use that term.” Rubio pressed, citing Russia’s brutal bombing campaign targeting civilians and hospitals in rebel-held areas of Syria, and Tillerson said: “I do not have sufficient information to make that claim.”
He did acknowledge that Russia was behind the hackings intended to influence the US election. Tillerson also suggested the US should chart a new relationship with Russia that took into account Moscow’s interests and ambitions — even as he labelled the country a “danger” that needed to be held to account for its actions.
The Flynn-Russia saga is bound to pose fresh challenges for him, with the spotlight firmly back on his relationship with Russia.
Carson, 65, Trump’s one-time rival for the presidency, is now in charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The retired paediatric neurosurgeon, who has no political experience, became infamous during the presidential campaign for a number of comments, among them his suggestion that the pyramids were built as grain stores.
Haley, 44, is the US Ambassador to the UN. As former governor of South Carolina, she was the youngest governor in the country and the first woman and first Indian-American to hold the job. She won praise for helping to heal the state after the massacre of nine people in an African-American church in 2015 by a white supremacist.
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, 64, a Chinese-American, is an experienced political hand. She was a former secretary of labour under George W Bush and has been deputy secretary of transportation. She is also married to senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
A former congressman and an orthopaedic surgeon, Tom Price, 63, has been leading the Republican charge to repeal former president Barack Obama’s healthcare act. Now his main task will be working with Republicans on Capitol Hill to come up with a replacement.
Rebekah Mercer, 45, is rarely mentioned in reports about Trump’s inner circle, yet she has played a pivotal role behind the scenes in shaping the administration.
She is the daughter of billionaire hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, who spent $13m during the presidential campaign backing Trump’s rival Ted Cruz before throwing his support behind Trump, She and her father have the lowest profile but wield much of the power and influence within the Trump administration. Neither of them ever speaks to the press and hardly ever releases a public statement.
Rebekah Mercer had a seat on the Trump transition team’s 16-member executive committee, according to Politico news wire, where she focused on collaborating with conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society — to which she has steered a combined $4.7m or more — to recruit appointees at the undersecretary level and below for roles in the administration.
She lobbied against prospective Cabinet secretaries she deemed too liberal, while pushing for others she saw as true conservatives and was apparently a leading advocate inside Trump’s inner circle for the nomination of Sessions as Attorney General and the now doomed appointment of Mike Flynn as National Security Adviser.
Mercer was also instrumental in what turned out to be one of Trump’s most momentous decisions — making Steve Bannon his right hand man.
Wealthy Americans have every reason to celebrate the presidency of Donald Trump but his agenda looks set to make America a cold place for ordinary workers and especially the poor.
While many are fixated on Trump’s Twitter tirades — he’s been sending an average of 14 a day — the president and his team have been working with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill to implement an agenda to gut health insurance for millions of Americans and roll back consumer protections, educational standards and environmental controls.
For the millions who trusted him with their votes and who desperately need job security and better wages he is unlikely to do much more than window dressing.
A number of his cabinet picks are billionaires like himself, making his Cabinet the richest in US history. Their combined fortunes are estimated to be worth $14bn (€13bn).
His Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (above) is worth more than $5bn, his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is worth $2.9bn, Linda McMahon, who heads the Small Business Administration, has a family fortune of $1.2bn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is in a similar league.
They come from the wealthiest section of American society, which makes up just 1% of the population but controls 43% of the nation’s wealth.
Those in the 1% group have an average annual income of $700,000 compared with a $50,000 average for other Americans, though 51% of American workers make less than $30,000.
The minimum hourly wage is $7.25 (€6.8) but it can vary dramatically upwards or downwards in different industries and states.
Workers in diners, for example, can see wages as low as $2.13 (€2) for tipped workers with the expectation that their wages plus tips will total no less than $7.25 an hour. No surprise then that 43m Americans, or 13.5% of the population, are living in poverty.
However, income disparity goes even deeper than that. Within the 1% wealthiest group in the country is a subset of .01% of the population with incomes of over $27m a year, or over 540 times the national average.
It is these wealthiest families who really stand to gain from Trump’s presidency. One of his aims is to eliminate the 40% inheritance tax on the estates of the very wealthy, a move that could see his own family saving $4bn, while another 10 members of his cabinet could, between them, save $5bn.
The president has promised to “massively cut taxes for the middle class”, but New York University law professor and income tax analyst Lily Batchelder estimates that it’s the top 1% who would get about half of the benefits of such cuts, with a millionaire getting an average tax cut of over $300,000.
By significantly reducing income taxes and corporate taxes and eliminating the inheritance tax, the US Tax Foundation says Trump’s plan would reduce federal revenue by up to $6tn over 10 years. Meantime, military spending will soar.
Something has to give — or be taken. Government-subsidised health insurance for more than 20m people is set to be lost with no plan yet to replace it, and medical and financial programmes for seniors and the poor [Medicare and Medicaid] are also imperilled.
Food stamps for low-income families are also to be cut, while the prospect of doubling the minimum wage to about $15 an hour died with the defeat of Trump’s Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton, as did the prospect of raising the inheritance tax to 65%.
Trump’s triumph has been cast as a working-class embrace of populism and a desire for job security. However, his evolving agenda shows it’s the rich who are set to benefit most.
“The prospect ahead is that Trump will not be merely a zero-sum president. He will be a negative-sum president,” says Nobel laureate Joseph Stieglitz.
“And if the billionaires insist on getting an ever larger slice of a diminished pie, it will mean that the crumbs left over for the rest become smaller and smaller.”
TRUMP’S IRISH TEAM
Irish-Americans dominate President Trump’s team. His inner circle and his cabinet are peppered with names like Bannon, Kelly, Mulvaney and Conway.
The duo — it used to be a trio before Mike Flynn’s fall from grace — so central to shaping his presidency is made of vice president Mike Pence, and chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Bannon is proud to proclaim his Irish roots: “I come from a blue-collar, Irish Catholic, pro-Kennedy, pro-union family of Democrats.”
He traces some of his ancestry to Clare and was once married to Limerick model Diane Clohessy.
Like many Irish-Americans at the time, Bannon began to move away from the Democrats during Jimmy Carter’s presidency in the late 1970s and early 1980s and became one of the “Reagan Democrats” by supporting Republican Ronald Reagan. Now they are unswerving Trump Republicans.
So is Congressman Mick Mulvaney, the grandson of immigrants from Co Mayo, who is director of the Office of Management and Budget.
But perhaps the most public faces of the administration are Kellyanne Conway, the daughter of an Irish immigrant father, and Sean Spicer, whose great-grandfather William Spicer was a Corkman from Kinsale.
Spicer and Conway are frequently sent out by Trump to tussle with the White House press corps.
Usually Conway goes first, offering memorable lines to reporters like “alternative facts” or citing fictional conflicts like the “Bowling Green massacre”. She’s also promoted the clothing line of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, for which she may now be sanctioned by the ethics committee in the House of Representatives.
When her comrade-in-arms Spicer is sent out to smooth the waters, he often ends up muddying them instead. Indeed, he has become manna from heaven for the US comedy show Saturday Night Live, much to the annoyance of Trump, who seems especially peeved that Spicer is played in the show by a woman.
Vice president Pence has frequently mentioned his Irish grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, who emigrated from Tubercurry, Co Sligo, to the US in 1923.
Pence recalls visiting Ireland many times and remembers as a child cutting turf and saving hay in Clare and Sligo. His great-grandmother is believed to have come from Doonbeg, Co Clare, where today Trump has his golf course.
Trump’s children — Donald (39), Eric (33) and Ivanka (35) — also had their childhoods shaped by Co Cavan native, Dorothy Curry, from Belturbet, who was their nanny and with whom they remain close. “The woman who raised us was Irish, Dorothy Curry from Co Cavan. We spent a lot of time here growing up and she’s an amazing woman,” Donald Jr gushed during a visit to Ireland in 2014.