Steve Bannon, President Trump’s embattled chief strategist, has either resigned or been fired from his post, according to conflicting accounts from a source close to Bannon and a White House spokeswoman.
“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
According to senior aides, the President informed them earlier Friday that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon. But a person close to Bannon insisted that the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but was delayed after the events of Charlottesville, Va. According to sources who spoke to ABC, Bannon’s resignation was effective Aug. 14 – exactly one year after he joined the Trump campaign.
Mr. Bannon leaving the White House raises the prospects that the President may face backlash from the conservative news media and white supremacist base who heavily supported his Presidential bid.
“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,”
On Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, Mr. Trump refused to guarantee Mr. Bannon’s job security but defended him as “not a racist” and “a friend.”
“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Bannon’s dismissal follows an Aug. 16 interview he initiated with a journalist from the progressive publication, The American Prospect. In the interview, Mr. Bannon mocked Trump’s suggestion that military action against North Korea was an option, saying “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
He also threw shade at his colleagues in the Trump administration, vowed to oust a diplomat at the State Department and mocked other aids as “wetting themselves” over the consequences of radically changing trade policy.
Speaking about the far right, he said, “These guys are a collection of clowns,” and he called it a “fringe element” of “losers.”
“We gotta help crush it,” he said in the interview, which people close to Mr. Bannon, the former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News, said he believed was off the record.
Steve Bannon’s Many Public Feuds at White House
Privately, the President had become increasingly frustrated with Bannon’s, according to a source close to the White House. Which is not surprising, consider that Bannon has clashed with virtually every top official in the White House. Atop his list of in-house detractors are senior adviser Jared Kushner, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and the new chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly.
Mr. Bannon’s departure was long rumored in Washington. Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who was brought on as chief of staff for his ability to organize a chaotic staff, was said to have grown weary of the chief strategist’s long-running feud with Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser.
One of McMaster’s first moves was to remove Bannon from his seat at the National Security Council, a move that angered Bannon. The President appointing Bannon to be the council’s chief political strategist was hugely controversial when it was first announced via executive order at the start of the administration.
Over the weekend, McMaster refused to say whether he would continue to work with Bannon.
Mr. Bannon has been in a battle with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, since the spring.
Mr. Bannon, whose campaign against “globalists” was a hallmark of his tenure steering the right-wing website Breitbart.com, and Mr. Kushner had been allies throughout the transition process and through the beginning of the administration. But their alliance ended when Mr. Trump elevated the roles of Gary D. Cohn, his top economic policy adviser and a former official at Goldman Sachs, and Dina Powell, a former Bush administration official who also worked on Wall Street. Mr. Cohn is a registered Democrat, and both he and Ms. Powell have been denounced by conservative media outlets as being antithetical to Mr. Trump’s populist message.
Bannon is the latest high-profile aide to leave the White House. On July 21, press secretary Sean Spicer resigned, followed by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was fired a few days later, serving just 11 days in that role – without having ever formally been on the White House payroll.