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Trump says ‘I like Steve’ Bannon; won’t definitively say he has confidence

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump did not give a definitive answer when asked by the New York Post on Tuesday whether he still has confidence in his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump told the newspaper. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist, and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”

A White House spokeswoman confirmed to CNN on Tuesday night that Trump spoke to the New York Post and the quotes in the story are accurate and stand for themselves.

The President acknowledged the widely reported infighting between Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, saying he told them to “straighten it out.”

“Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will,” Trump told the newspaper.

The first major signs of Bannon’s diminishing stature in the White House came last Wednesday, when he was removed from his permanent seat at the National Security Council.

CNN learned from White House officials last week that Trump told Bannon and Kushner on Thursday to “work this out.” That led to a meeting between the two aides the following day at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, coordinated by chief of staff Reince Priebus. Priebus’ goal was “to get them on the same page,” a senior administration official said.

Reports tell of an ideological divide between Bannon and Kushner that has split White House staff and has stood poised to determine the administration’s agenda moving forward.

Rival factions have emerged, pitting those aides who consider themselves nationalists — including Bannon and policy adviser Stephen Miller — against a more global-minded wing led by Kushner, economic adviser Gary Cohn and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Bannon has been an influential figure within Trump’s inner circle, starting with his move from executive chairman of the right-wing website Breitbart to his appointment as chief executive of Trump’s campaign in August 2016 and then as White House chief strategist following Trump’s election win.