Steve Bannon, the populist firebrand who had become increasingly isolated in the West Wing, is out as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist — the latest high-level staff shake-up to rock the Trump administration.
“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
A senior administration official said Bannon had resigned on Aug. 7, but other officials noted that Trump had grown tired of his tactics and behavior and had been plotting ways to oust him. Ultimately, it was Kelly who fired him on Friday.
People who have spoken to Bannon said he has been telling others for the past two weeks that he’s planning to return to Breitbart, the conservative news site he used to run before joining Trump’s campaign. Later on Friday, Breitbart officially announced that he would be returning as executive chairman and had helmed the company’s evening editorial meeting.
“The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today,” said Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow. “Breitbart gained an executive chairman with his finger on the pulse of the Trump agenda.”
Bannon’s return to the news site, known for its controversial and aggressive coverage, is sure to stoke the fears long harbored by many in Trump world that Bannon could wreak havoc if he left the administration.
Inside the White House, Bannon, known as a bomb-thrower who pushed Trump toward strongly nationalist views, often clashed with other aides and many other top officials had turned against him.
He particularly butted heads with the globalist wing of the White House, which includes Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. He had also recently feuded with national security adviser H.R. McMaster and maintained a tense relationship with McMaster’s deputy, Dina Powell.
But even after Bannon had submitted his resignation earlier this month, he still called rampant rumors about his departure “bulls—,” and his allies tried to build support for him.
Bannon had played a central role in helping Trump win the White House, shaping the billionaire businessman’s populist message in a way that resonated with millions of Americans unhappy with the progress of the economic recovery.
Still, Trump chafed at the impression that Bannon was in the driver’s seat in the White House, including a Time Magazine cover that called him “The Great Manipulator” and “Saturday Night Live” skits that put him behind the Resolute Desk.
As recently as Tuesday, Trump had distanced himself from his embattled chief strategist, whom he called “Mr. Bannon.” Speaking to reporters from inside the lobby of Trump Tower, the president described Bannon as a “friend” who “came on very late” in the campaign.
“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,” Trump said Tuesday.
Bannon’s exit comes shortly after Trump ousted Priebus and replaced him with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired Marine general who has been trying to impose more discipline in the West Wing.
In a pair of rare and wide-ranging interviews this week, Bannon attacked his West Wing colleagues, threatened to overhaul the State and Defense departments, and undercut Trump’s tough talk on North Korea.
Bannon told The American Prospect, a liberal magazine, that “there’s no military solution” in North Korea. He also spoke to The New York Times and indicated to the Daily Mail that his comments “drew fire away from POTUS” and successfully “changed the narrative” from Trump’s Charlottesville, Virginia, comments.
His departure Friday caps yet another tumultuous week in the Trump era. This week was marked by the president doubling down on his charge that “both sides” were to blame for violence that occurred in Charlottesville over the weekend.
A group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis protesting the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue clashed with a set of counter-protesters. Trump not only suggested that counter-protesters were violent and that there were “very fine people” in both groups, but he also sympathized with the white supremacists’ cause, lamenting Thursday “the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart” with the “foolish” removal of statutes of Confederate figures he said “will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
Democrats rushed to cheer Bannon’s exit. Democratic lawmakers had largely opposed Trump allowing Bannon in the White House, noting past charges of racism and anti-Semitism.
“Steve Bannon’s exit does not erase @realDonaldTrump’s long record of lifting up racist viewpoints & advancing repulsive policies,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted.
Pelosi had endorsed a move earlier Friday to censure Trump over his Charlottesville rhetoric. The resolution, which represents a significant rebuke of the president, included language calling on Trump to “fire any and all White House advisors who have urged him to cater to the white supremacist movement in the United States” — specifically naming Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.
The Democratic National Committee echoed the sentiment from Pelosi’s tweet, writing that there’s “one less white supremacist in the White House, but that doesn’t change who’s behind the desk.”
“Trump is still the apologist-in-chief,” the committee said.
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