With the news of the likely ouster of former Sen. Jim DeMint as the president of The Heritage Foundation, allegedly due to a dispute with board members about the direction of conservative think tank, speculations point to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon as DeMint's successor.
"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace asked Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham about the possibility of Heritage becoming Bannon's "safety net as he's forced out of the White House."
"I can tell you, there's a lot of speculation in the room and in the media that never misses a chance to divide and attack conservatives," Needham replied. "He's had a courageous career in Washington and the conservative movement are far better because of that," he said of DeMint. "The Heritage Foundation that is committed to formulating and promoting conservative policies, that is not going to change."
On Saturday, Heritage vice president of personnel, Wes Dyck, sent an email to all staff with a warning, according to Washington Examiner. "I ask all of you to avoid speculation, especially outside the Heritage family or with the media," the email reads. "Further public speculation is not helpful to the cause we all share: advancing principled, conservative public politics for all Americans."
On Friday, Politico reported on DeMint's alleged dispute with board members and his likely removal.
"He has been a congressman and senator. They are solo performers. When you are in the Senate, life is all about the senators," one anonymous board member was quoted as saying about DeMint. "CEO skills are different than senator skills. I think it boils down to attributes. I don't think it is particularly personal."
A few Heritage staffers close to DeMint, who came over from the Senate with him, are also expected to leave, Politico said.
"If Heritage pushes Jim DeMint out, it was because a few board members, who are close to the Republican establishment, never wanted him to be president and have been working to push him out ever since," one operative who has worked with Heritage was quoted as saying. "DeMint is one of the most respected and selfless conservative leaders in the country and pushing him out would be a big mistake."
Some congressional conservatives have written a letter to support DeMint. "For the last two decades, you have served faithfully as a leading advocate for America at its best," the letter reads. "You have consistently promoted our founding-era vision of America as a nation of empowered, flourishing citizens."
The letter concludes, "As you prepare to take the next step in your fateful, courageous career, we applaud and thank you for being our leader, our friend, and our champion. We also express our gratitude to your wife and family, who have sacrificed much in supporting you through thick and thin. We look forward to witnessing God's plan for you and your family in the coming days."
According to the Examiner, Bannon has a close relationship with Heritage board member Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of a conservative hedge fund manager.
Last month, President Trump refused to say if he still has confidence in Bannon.
"I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late," Trump told New York Post. "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."
Bannon, the former head of Breitbart and former Goldman Sachs investment banker, calls himself an "economic nationalist," but the Heritage Foundation holds free-market economic views.
In 2013, Bannon told Daily Beast, "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."