Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart News, is out from his position as White House chief strategist, the White House confirmed Friday. As late as Friday morning, Bannon’s future was still being discussed within the White House, according to the New York Times, but Trump later told senior aides he’d decided to fire Bannon.
“We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day.”
Bannon follows several senior White House officials out the door including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. There are reports that Bannon’s ideological allies in the White House such as Deputy Assistant Seb Gorka could be dismissed next.
First reported by the Drudge Report and then the New York Times, Bannon’s dismissal seven months into Trump’s presidency marks a quick descent for the man who helped create the populist movement that ushered Trump into the Oval Office.
As Trump’s campaign strategist turned White House senior adviser, Bannon is credited with tapping into and perfecting Trump’s populist platform, and winning an election few thought he could.
Loud, blunt, outspoken, and portrayed as a presidential puppeteering grim reaper on “SNL”, Bannon wielded enormous influence at the outset of the Trump presidency. But his place in the White House became increasingly precarious as he feuded with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump took exception to Bannon’s public caricature as the mastermind behind Trump’s victory.
“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump told the New York Post in April, a line he repeated this week at a press conference. “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.”
But Bannon’s roles as the head of Breitbart and then the chief executive of the Trump campaign from August of 2016 to Election Day were critical to Trump’s victory in the primary and presidential election.
While most Republicans from Sean Hannity to John McCain were encouraging the party to moderate its stance on undocumented immigrants following the 2012 presidential election, Bannon and Breitbart maintained the hard line and stoked the nativist, nationalistic flames that Trump then turned into a blaze in 2015 and 2016.
Bannon also helped focus the wildly pugilistic Trump during the final months of the the presidential race. When Bannon came aboard the Trump campaign in August, Trump’s poll numbers had been sagging as he was mired in racially-tinged fights with a judge of Mexican heritage and the Pakistani-American parents of a soldier who’d died in combat. After Bannon’s arrival, Trump’s fury was more targeted toward Hillary Clinton.
Bannon’s instinct to always fight back also suited Trump’s counterpunching style. After the release of the Access Hollywood tape last fall that caught Trump bragging of sexually assaulting women, Bannon helped devise the stunt of bringing women who’d accused Bill Clinton of rape to the second presidential debate. Trump held a press conference with the women immediately before the debate and had them come out to the spin room afterward.
But Bannon’s hit back-style appeared to wear out its welcome inside the White House.
“Here’s the reason there’s no middle ground,” Mr. Bannon growled at Kushner this past spring, according to The New York Times. “You’re a Democrat.” When lobbying House conservatives to vote “yes” on Trump’s health care bill, Congressman Joe Barton of Texas got so tired of Bannon’s brash style that he snapped that the only person who ordered him around like that was “my daddy,” according to the Washington Post.
It’s unclear if exiting the White House will change Bannon’s desire to fight for his economic nationalist agenda which found particular appeal among white nationalists. He is reportedly returning to Breitbart, which greeted his departure with an article warning that Trump was on the verge of becoming a liberal (“Arnold Schwarzenegger 2.0” as they put it).
As one source close to Bannon told Axios: “Get ready for Bannon the barbarian.”
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