A Bannon ally told the Times that leaving the White House was Bannon’s idea and that he put in his resignation on August 7, with plans for it to be announced on Monday. The aftermath of the violent clashes during a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville over the weekend is said to have delayed the announcement.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, says that Bannon was pushed out by Chief of Staff John Kelly and calls his recent surprise interview with The American Prospect “the breaking point.” Politico also suggests that Bannon was fired after “growing displeasure in the West Wing with his tactics and behavior.” The publication also heard from one source that Trump “had grown tired of his chief strategist’s approach and had been plotting ways to oust him.”
“This was without question one man’s decision: Kelly. One hundred percent,” a senior White House official told the Washington Post. “It’s been building for a while.” The campaign against Bannon reached a “fever pitch” this week, that official said, as White House staffers pushed for the expulsion of anyone associated with white nationalism.
The White House sought to put a happier face on the story in its first official statement on the matter. “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.”
Whatever the circumstances of Bannon’s departure, it is yet another high-level defection from the Trump White House. Bannon now joins a list that includes short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, ex–press secretary Sean Spicer, and controversial national security advisor Mike Flynn.
Bannon has long been one of the most divisive figures in the White House, thanks to his unrepentant right-wing nationalism. As the head of Breitbart News, Bannon embraced the loose coalition of white nationalists who call themselves the alt-right. And as he suggested in the American Prospect interview that may have undone him, he revels in fanning the flames of the culture wars.
Despite his attempts to remain largely outside of public view during his time in the Trump White House, Bannon was a common sight on magazine covers and Saturday Night Live. On SNL he was portrayed as the Grim Reaper, who would take over the Oval Office’s resolute desk while Trump played with children’s toys. Those sketches left Trump “especially upset,” the Washington Post reported in February.
More recently, Trump was reportedly annoyed about the cover of Devil’s Bargain, a book from Bloomberg News reporter Joshua Green, which showed Bannon and Trump side-by-side.
Bannon’s next move will be closely watched in Washington, and the early odds appear to be on a return to Breitbart. Matt Drudge was the first to suggest as much on Friday, and a former spokesperson for the website told Business Insider that Bannon will “continue to use his weapon of choice, Breitbart, to attack his adversaries inside the West Wing.”
Axios reporter Jonathan Swan writes that Bannon is preparing to team up with right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, a longtime ally and Breitbart benefactor, to go “thermonuclear” on the “globalists,” according to one of his sources.
The site has wasted no time starting that fight. In a piece posted Friday afternoon, editor Joel B. Pollak says firing Bannon “may turn out to be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration.”
Bannon himself has reportedly been preparing for this day and telling friends to get ready for “Bannon da barbarian.” Politico says Bannon has felt reined in by Washington and is eager to pull himself out of the swamp so he can “launch attacks on GOP leaders, stir up primary challenges, and rile conservative supporters.” Or, in his words, go “medieval.”
That could mean any number of things. Politico suggests that Bannon may return to Breitbart with an expansionary mind-set, perhaps taking a swing at creating Breitbart TV. From his post at Breitbart, Bannon could revert to his vocation as conservative gadfly, pushing Republicans to accept his white-nationalist agenda. There’s also talk of him teaming with the millionaire Mercer to run his political operation, allowing him fight Trump-opposing Republicans, such as Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, in the 2018 election.
For his part, Bannon tells Joshua Green that his plan is to go “to war for Trump against hid opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media and in corporate America.”
Wherever he ends up, Bannon will surely aim his crosshairs at anyone who is not working toward his nationalist agenda — Trump included.