In a CNN Opinion piece that ran last August in the immediate aftermath of Steve Bannon's firing from the White House, I questioned which came first: the Trump we now know, or Steve Bannon: "Did Steve make Trump into who he is, or was Trump always there?"
I think we're about to find out the answer to that question.
"Game of Thrones" had its famed "Battle of the Bastards" and Michael Wolff's upcoming book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," has ignited the "Battle of the Blowhards" between President Trump and his former chief strategist.
Explosive excerpts from the book report Bannon as calling Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting in Trump Tower "treasonous," and that was among the milder language he used to impugn Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort in a memorable tirade which also included "unpatriotic," "greasy," and "Category Five."
President Trump responded with a brutal tirade of his own, saying in a statement released by the White House: "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating 17 candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party."
Bannon's ascension has put him on an inevitable collision course with Trump. When Bannon made the cover of Time magazine last February, it was reported that Trump was "annoyed."
Tensions peaked between the two when Bannon was given co-billing with Trump for Joshua Green's book "A Devil's Bargain."
The greatest foreshadowing of their inevitable war was when Bannon, liberated from the confines of the West Wing, told the Weekly Standard, "The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over...It'll be something else. And there'll be all kinds of fights, and there'll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over."
Just a few weeks ago, I was asked if I thought Bannon would ever dump Trump -- my response was simple: absolutely. He's a parasite. He won't hesitate to throw Trump overboard if it will help him maintain power.
Clearly, if these book excerpts are any indication, Bannon believes the Mueller investigation poses an existential threat to the survival of the Trump presidency.
I think Bannon believes he will outlast Trump and his detractors.
At this point, it wouldn't shock me if he was a cooperating witness for Mueller.
There is also the potential that something else is happening here.
Since leaving the White House, Bannon has turned Breitbart into his own personal propaganda machine, pumping out content that position Bannon as more than a publisher of so-called news -- as the leader of a political movement.
Headlines like "'Populist Hero Stephen K. Bannon Returns Home to Breitbart," "Bannon on 2018: 'Nobody's Safe --We Are Coming After All of Them and We Are Going to Win'" and "Bannon: 'America's Elites Are Comfortable Managing Country's Decline'" have become a routine part of Breitbart's content calendar.
Right before the holiday break, Gabriel Sherman published a head-turning expose for Vanity Fair hinting that Bannon may be thinking about running for president in 2020 and quoted Bannon saying Trump was "like an 11-year-old child" who has "lost a step."
Bannon, much like his former boss, relishes the media spotlight that has been fixated on him since he joined the Trump campaign in the summer of 2017. Bannon flamed out of the White House, in part, because he, like Trump, is a boss at heart, not meant to work for, answer to or serve under anyone.
Ultimately, one of three things will happen in this battle of the blowhards: 1.) If Trump finds himself under siege in 2018, Bannon could very well end up back in his good graces, 2.) The split between them remains permanent and Bannon will find himself isolated on an island without any allies and with diminished influence or 3.) The split is permanent and Bannon will outlast Trump and potentially supplant him.