White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is leaving the Trump
administration, multiple outlets reported Friday.
Conservative internet news mogul Matt Drudge first reported that Bannon was
leaving the White House, tweeting that he “had one hell of a
run.” He later added a note at the top of his site that Bannon
may be returning to Breitbart News, the right-wing website he
chaired before joining President Donald Trump’s campaign last
The White House confirmed the story Friday afternoon.
“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.”
The news came as rumors of Bannon’s departure reached a fever
pitch in recent days.
The New York Times
reported shortly after Drudge tweeted the news that Trump
told senior aides he decided to remove Bannon, according to two
administration officials who were briefed on the conversation.
The Times additionally noted, however, that a person close to
Bannon insisted that his departure was his idea. The source
said Bannon submitted his resignation on August 7, to be
announced earlier this week, but it was pushed back after the
racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over this
Earlier this week, Bannon gave a series of on-the-record
interviews and comments to publications including the Times,
Prospect, and The Washington Post. They followed Trump’s
Tuesday press conference when he said that some of the ralliers
who stood alongside the white nationalists at this weekend’s
violent protests in Charlottesville were “very fine people.”
It was in those interviews, particularly with the Prospect, that
Bannon appeared to seal his fate, if he hadn’t already tenured
Bannon lashed out at National Economic Council Chair Gary Cohn,
president on North Korea, and called the white
nationalist movement a “collection of clowns” and “losers.”
He also said he hopes Democrats “talk about racism every day.”
“The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em,” Bannon
said. “I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is
focused on race and identity, and we go with economic
nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
That interview irked Trump, CNN reported. The
president was also upset with Bannon’s participation in Josh
Green’s book “Devil’s Bargain,” which painted Trump and Bannon as
seemingly equal in causing Trump’s win last November. Trump was
also annoyed by a Time magazine cover
that depicted Bannon as “The Great Manipulator.”
Asked about Bannon’s status during his Tuesday press conference,
Trump called Bannon “a friend of mind” and “a good man” who is
“not a racist.” Though he did say “we’ll see” when asked about
his chief strategist’s status in the administration.
“Look, look — I like Mr. Bannon,” Trump said. “He’s a friend of
mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went
through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr.
Bannon came on very much later than that. And I like him, he’s a
good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He’s a good
person. He actually gets very unfair press in that regard. But
we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he’s a good person,
and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.”
Bannon told some close associates that he did not believe his
conversation with The Prospect’s Robert Kuttner was on the
record, but told others that the interview was strategic. He told
The Daily Mail Thursday
that his interview with The Prospect was good for the White House
because it “drew fire away” from the president.
Earlier Friday, Axios reported the
decision was “imminent” as Kelly was reviewing Bannon’s status. A
source close to Bannon told the publication that Bannon would
defend Trump from the outside and unleash “fire and fury” on
opponents of the Trump agenda.
“Get ready for Bannon the barbarian,” the source told Axios.
Bannon was the leading nationalist figure in the White House.
While Bannon often found himself in Trump’s doghouse, the
president was many times most closely aligned with Bannon’s
viewpoints on issues, even as other top administration officials
tried to persuade him to another side.
At Breitbart, Bannon helped lead what he himself once called
“the platform of the
alt-right,” the movement that brought together white
nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other fringe groups on the right.
Democrats and Republicans have called for his removal for months,
and his appointment as chief strategist was one of the most
controversial, if not the most controversial, hire that Trump
made to his team.
“Steve will do exactly what he has been doing from Day 1 — try to
‘bring everything crashing down,'” Kurt Bardella, a former
spokesperson for Breitbart, told Business Insider of what he
believes Bannon will do next. “He will continue to use his weapon
of choice, Breitbart, to attack his adversaries inside the West
Wing — mainly Jared, Ivanka, Cohn, etc.”
“He will relentlessly attack Congressional Republican leadership
like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell,” he continued. “In many ways,
I think Steve will feel liberated. Free from the limitations of
‘serving’ or ‘answering’ to somebody. It’s not in Steve’s DNA to
work for anybody but himself. He likes being the dictator. Now,
he will be able to operate openly and freely to inflict as much
damage as he possibly can on the ‘globalists’ that remain in the
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio responded to the news
Friday afternoon, saying in a statement that Bannon “emboldened
white nationalists and neo-Nazis” and “should have never been in
the White House.”
“His departure is good news, and he should take his dozens of
acolytes with him,” Brown said. “The real test will be what the
president does next to bring our country together. In other
words, the president of the United States should begin to act
like the president of the United States.”
Bannon’s departure comes during a period of massive turnover in
White House staff. Within the past month, White House press
secretary Sean Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and
communications director Anthony Scaramucci all either resigned or