President Donald Trump has informed his staff that he has decided to fire White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, according to a report by the New York Times.
The report claims that a source close to Bannon stated that Bannon had planned to resign on August 7, but his resignation was delayed due to the turmoil in Charlottesville. However, this may be just spin by the Bannon camp, given other reports that said Bannon had personally intended to stay, and was indeed fired after an internal review.
The decision comes in the wake of an interview Bannon gave to the American Prospect, where he openly attacked more liberal staffers within the administration such as Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn and State Department aide Susan Thornton. Bannon believed it was off the record, and when it was published, it increased the already amounting pressure on Trump to fire him.
Immediately prior to this, Bannon had feuded with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster over the administration’s foreign policy direction. While McMaster promoted a conventional American foreign policy, Bannon served as a voice of restraint on intervention abroad. He was subsequently accused of being the source of the negative stories about McMaster in conservative media outlets, earning him the ire of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. He is then said to have gone after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who had sided with Bannon in prior policy disputes with McMaster.
The liberal wing of the administration has long had problems with Bannon. The aforementioned Cohn and the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have both had bitter dispute with Bannon, particularly on the issue of trade. Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who is closely aligned with Kushner and serves as an informal Trump adviser, had privately pushed for Bannon to be ousted. Former Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who had previously accused Bannon of wanting to “suck his own c***”, also called for Bannon to be fired during an appearance on the Stephen Colbert Show.
Even those in the nationalist wing of the administration started to turn on Bannon, seeing him as doomed. Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller and Special Assistant to the President Julia Hahn, both Bannon proteges, quietly questioned Bannon’s conduct. Outside the White House, political strategist Roger Stone, a close confidant of the President’s, penned an op-ed outlining why Trump’s base ought to welcome his dismissal, while Matt Drudge continued to run negative stories about the Chief Strategist on his Drudge Report. Ultimately, Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) was one of the only figures close to Trump lobbying strongly for Bannon to remain in the White House, although he too acceded to the viewpoint held by the others after the Prospect interview.
With few allies left, Bannon is said to have banked on the President’s choice to stand with him on Charlottesville as an indication that he was secure. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
Bannon’s next step is said to be returning to the orbit of Trump megadonor Robert Mercer, where he could either continue to engage in political activity, or reassume his post as Chairman of Breitbart News. Bannon had strong support from the pro-Trump grassroots, who saw him as ideologically like-minded and committed to delivering on campaign promises. With him now on the outside, it will be interesting to see if and how the administration’s policies will change.