Bannon boosts Flake challenger, snubs Trump plea to back off

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former presidential strategist Steve Bannon is rebuffing President Donald Trump's public plea for him to retreat in his war on the Republican establishment, personally boosting the candidacy of a challenger to incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake.

Bannon plans to appear with Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward today as she announces another bid for the Senate, this time against freshman Flake. Ward lost last year to Republican Sen. John McCain, who went on to win a sixth term.

The pair will participate in a program headlined by conservative radio host Laura Ingraham in Scottsdale, Ariz., a day after the political action committee affiliated with Bannon said it would support Ward, a former Arizona state senator.

Bannon has said he is "declaring war on the Republican establishment" and he intends to lead a "populist nationalist conservative revolt," to clear the way in Congress for Trump's stalled legislative agenda.

Appearing with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Washington on Monday, Trump said he would try to discourage Bannon from going after all Republican senators.

"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 during a joint news conference with McConnell.

Bannon is promoting a field of primary challengers to take on incumbent Republicans in Congress, especially the Senate. He has said he plans to recruit challengers for every GOP senator standing for re-election next year except Ted Cruz of Texas.

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