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Steve Bannon is out as President Trump's controversial chief strategist. He was seen as the architect of Trump’s nationalist message that helped lead him to electoral victory and drove the White House’s early agenda.
“Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” said Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Bannon’s ouster comes after weeks of speculation. The former executive of right-wing news site Breitbart had functioned as a tie between the administration and the nationalist faction in Trump's base. New York magazine reported that Bannon would return to Breitbart.
Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly
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A dejected Bannon ally told BuzzFeed News on Friday the news means the administration will be led by ascendant generals, like chief of staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser HR McMaster, and New York Democrats, a label frequently tossed onto Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and economic adviser Gary Cohn.
“It tells me that unfortunately the swamp is winning, the swamp is incredibly powerful, it’s wealthy it’s cunning, and the globalist forces are winning,” the source said. “Trump may think this may placate his enemies, but I think it’s going to embolden them.”
The New York Times first reported that Trump decided to remove Bannon, but that he was still determining how to do so. ABC News soon after reported that he resigned two weeks ago with the resignation effective Monday.
The position of WH Chief Strategist should never have been held by a white nationalist to begin with. Glad to see #Bannon out,” tweeted Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois.
Bannon's fall comes after a tumultuous week at the White House, and for his place in it. Bannon was privately pleased with Trump's response to last weekend's white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, which the president initially blamed on “many sides.” A Bannon ally told BuzzFeed News that Bannon thought Trump's much-maligned Tuesday remarks, where he doubled-down on blaming “both sides” for the violence, were “great,” a stance that set Bannon apart from others in the White House who were privately more critical of the president's words.
But Bannon, after weeks of laying relatively low, also gave an explosive, on-the-record interview with the left-wing American Prospect this week, where he railed against White House adversaries and appeared to undercut the president's messaging on North Korea. Published Wednesday night, the interview again showed Bannon publicly asserting his influence in the White House and with the president, something Trump has bristled at in the past.
Bannon, an ally said, was being defiant, with the idea being, 'I’m going to force you to fire me in a public way or we’re going to follow the agenda we were elected for.'”
Trump was asked about Bannon's job security at Tuesday's press conference, and he gave a muted defense of his chief strategist while playing down Bannon's role in his own success.
“I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries,” Trump told reporters. “Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that.”
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But, Trump added, “He is not a racist. I can tell you that. He is a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard.”
“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. He is a good person and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly,” Trump said.
Bannon had a meteoric rise to power and influence in the Trump administration that was quickly tempered when his face appeared on a February cover of Time magazine — a Trump favorite — under the headline, “The Great Manipulator.” The cover, and resulting attention, led to the moniker “President Bannon,” used by the left to taunt Trump and also repeatedly by Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe — another Trump favorite — at the time. Bannon was also ruthlessly portrayed on Saturday Night Live as the skeletal Death, who would sit at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office while Alec Baldwin’s Trump played with toys.
Recently, Trump was furious over a new book that lionized Bannon's influence on the campaign, Devil's Bargain by Joshua Green. “That fucking Steve Bannon taking credit for my election,” Trump recently told a confidant, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.
In the fractured White House, Bannon also got into a war with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top aide to the president who is derided in hard-right circles as a “globalist” and a Democrat.
Trump has told confidantes that he didn’t like being upstaged by the perception of Bannon as the real power in the White House — nor his feud with his family.
The mercurial chief strategist has largely receded from public view in recent months and reportedly has chosen his battles more carefully.
Bannon, a former Navy officer and Goldman Sachs investment banker before his career at Breitbart, gained influence as he used Breitbart to attack more moderate Republicans in Congress on immigration.
A source close to the Trump administration previously told BuzzFeed News that Bannon is “someone who very much understands the populist sentiment that was championed by the president on the campaign trail,” and would effectively implement that vision, which he did quickly.
He is also close with mega-donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who helped financially fuel his rise at Breitbart and in conservative politics more generally. The Mercers spent heavily in support of Trump's 2016 campaign.
Bannon reportedly helped Trump write his dystopic inaugural address — which decried “American carnage” — and the chaotic immigration and refugee ban that was signed days later.
He was also present at the June 1 event in which Trump said he would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord — a global agreement Bannon reportedly spent months pressuring Trump to exit.
Those early moves led to reporting that Bannon had great influence over the Trump administration. The second headline for that Time magazine cover was, “Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the World?”
“What staffer have you ever known that is in the job for a week and a half and is on the cover of Time magazine?” Scarborough asked co-host Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in February.
“It’s astounding that this soon into a new administration, I don’t know. Maybe Bannon’s calling all the shots?” Scarborough replied.
Less than an hour later, Trump tweeted, “I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data and everyone knows it. Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!”
The New York Times reported in April that months after the Time issue published, Trump remained bothered by the magazine cover.
Bannon initially maneuvered his way into a seat on the National Security Council just days after the president’s inauguration — unusual for someone with his job title. But he was ultimately removed from the position in April.
The feud between Bannon and Kushner, according to CNN, grew over differences in personality and ideology — pitting nationalist aides against the more “global-minded wing” including economic adviser Gary Cohn and Ivanka Trump.
Trump insisted the two work out their differences, and “cut it out,” and Bannon reportedly told some staffers that he believes the war with Kushner is “unwinnable” because of the president’s loyalty to his family.
Anthony Scaramucci, during his very short time as a White House aide, dealt a devastating criticism to Bannon in the New Yorker, painting him as someone acting more out of his own self-interests than fore Trump or the American people. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” Scaramucci said in late July. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.”
Rumors that Bannon would be fired intensified over the last week. On Sunday, Scaramucci told ABC News that Trump needs to “move away” from Bannon.
“If the President really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people … then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense,” Scaramucci said.
The rumors have also raised alarm among Bannon supporters. Sam Nunberg, who advised Trump during his campaign, told The Daily Caller over the weekend that Bannon’s removal would not be looked at kindly by the president’s base. “If Steve is fired by the White House and a bunch of generals take over the White House there will be hell to pay,” he said. People in the Mercers' orbit have also worried that Bannon's departure would lead to a more conventional White House, sources have told BuzzFeed News.
During a Sunday interview with NBC’s Meet The Press, White House National Security Advisor HR McMaster, another target of Breitbart’s scorn, dodged questions about whether he could continue to work with Bannon.
“I get to work together with a broad range of talented people. And it is a privilege every day to enable the national security team,” he said.
When pressed with the same question again, he responded by saying “I am ready to work with anybody who will help advance the president's agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people.”
He did not say if Bannon met those requirements.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.