WASHINGTON — Stephen Bannon left the White House at midday and by the afternoon was already chairing the evening editorial meeting for Breitbart News.
The exit of President Trump’s top adviser from the administration has been long rumored but it became a reality Friday when White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued this statement:
“White House 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.”
It was not clear whether Bannon resigned or was fired.
But he remained defiant and optimistic, telling WND earlier this week, “I have not yet begun to fight.”
“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America,” Bannon told Bloomberg News.
A source told the New York Times the departure was Bannon’s idea and that he actually resigned on Aug. 7.
The resignation was to be announced at the start of this week, but was reportedly delayed because of the raging controversy over Charlottesville.
That version of events was backed up by the top story on Brietbart, announcing Bannon’s return as executive chairman, which said, “He submitted his intention to leave the White House on August 7 of this year.”
However, CNN claimed a White House source said Bannon was fired after he refused to resign.
That source said Trump was going to fire Bannon three weeks ago but had second thoughts about terminating him and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at the same time.
The source also claimed that Trump was persuaded to keep Bannon by the influential chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and other conservatives.
But Meadows reportedly dropped his opposition to dumping Bannon after he gave a freewheeling interview to a left-leaning reporter earlier this week that flatly contradicted one of the president’s most important foreign policy positions, the viability of a military option against North Korea, which his top adviser ridiculed.
Bannon also disparaged other presidential advisers’ views on China, saying they did not sufficiently recognize the threat of economic warfare waged by the regime.
It is not clear if Bannon realized that interview was on the record.
On Friday, Matt Drudge, founder of the influential Drudge Report website, said Bannon “had one hell of a run,” and accurately speculated that he might return to Breitbart News, which he ran as executive chair before joining the Trump presidential campaign on Aug. 17, almost exactly one year ago.
The Times reported the former top presidential aide made it clear to friends this week that he expected to rejoin Breitbart soon, and that “he had dinner in New York City on Wednesday night with Robert Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire who is also Mr. Bannon’s chief patron, to discuss the future.”
Bannon confidant Sam Nunberg told the New York Post that once back at Breitbart, “Steve will compliment the administration when it’s right. When it’s wrong, he’ll knock their block hard.”
“Get ready for Bannon the barbarian,” a source told Axios, adding that he would unleash “fire and fury” upon enemies of the Trump agenda, using the same expression president had used to successfully deter the North Koreans from threatening Guam.
“Steve is now unchained,” a source told the Atlantic. “Fully unchained.”
“He’s going nuclear,’ said another source, adding, “You have no idea. This is gonna be really f***ing bad.”
The website said Bannon had “a range of ways to make mischief — from returning to Breitbart, to helming an outside group, to leaking dirt about rivals.”
However, Joel Pollak, senior-editor-at-large for Breitbart News, said that by cutting loose Bannon, “It may turn out to be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration, the moment Donald Trump became Arnold Schwarzenegger,” the California governor who entered office promising conservative reforms, but left, by most accounts, a failed liberal.
Pollack said “Bannon personified the Trump agenda,” and now “there is no guarantee that Trump will stick to the plan.”
Political observers considered Bannon instrumental in forming the anti-illegal immigration and anti-globalization strategies that helped elect the president.
Trump was said to chafe at that notion, because those were positions he held long before Bannon joined the 2016 election campaign.
But the president also recognized Bannon’s unique value to his success by creating the position of White House chief strategist especially for him, and making the man who had been his top campaign adviser his top presidential adviser.
Bannon, however, encountered significant opposition within the White House in his new role.
He was often reported to have bitterly feuded behind the scenes with presidential advisers who did not share his policy goals, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, his deputy Dina Powell, and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn.
Of all the president’s advisers, Bannon has long been considered to best represent the conservative views of the GOP base voters who elected Trump, so jettisoning him had been seen as politically risky for the president.
But, Pollack asserted, “Trump’s decision to part ways with Steve Bannon can be understood as an effort to save his presidency after Charlottesville.”
Bannon has long been accused of racism and white nationalism by left-leaning critics who have provided scant evidence that he has ever actually expressed or supported such views, merely citing his strong anti-illegal immigration stance.
Democrats and critics in the major media had called on Trump to fire Bannon ever since the violent confrontation between neo-Nazi white supremacists and radical leftists in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday. It turned deadly after an apparent neo-Nazi sympathizer drove a car into a crowd, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.
Trump defended Bannon, saying he is not a racist.
Bannon ridiculed the white supremacists in his interview this week with the American Prospect, calling them “losers,” part of a “fringe element,” and a “collection of clowns,” who the administration needed to help crush.
Nonetheless, Pollack and other figures as diverse as conservative commentator Ann Coulter and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., all believed Trump fired Bannon to deflect the intense criticism the president has received after Charlottesville.
Trump accurately claimed, as demonstrated in video footage, that both far-right and far-left groups were responsible for violence in Charlottesville. But Democrats and the mainstream media have been outraged Trump didn’t place all the blame for the violence on just the far-right protesters.
Coulter suggested Trump got rid of Bannon because of that pressure, tweeting, “Who will media decide @realDonaldTrump has to fire next?”
And, “STEVE BANNON OUT! Media is the most powerful branch of government.”
Pelosi did not seem placated by Trump’s gesture.
She tweeted: “Steve Bannon’s exit does not erase @realDonaldTrump’s long record of lifting up racist viewpoints & advancing repulsive policies.”
However, Pelosi has been finding racism in highly unlikely places, issuing a confused call this week for the National Park Service to revoke a permit for what she called a “white supremacist rally” set for late August in San Francisco.
It’s actually a multi-ethnic prayer rally.
Joey Gibson, the organizer of the “Patriot Prayer” rally, pointed out that not only is it not a white supremacist rally, he himself is not white.
“We have about eight speakers and only one speaker is white. We have a couple black speakers, a hispanic (speaker), we have a transexual speaker, we have a woman speaker, it’s very diverse,” Gibson told a San Francisco paper.
“It’s frustrating because right now we have these politicians who believe it is OK to lie, you know we let them get away with it. She’s going to make such a ridiculous lie, like even the fact that I’m brown, she’s going to say that I’m a white supremacist,” he added.
“You know what she’s doing,” Gibson continued, “she’s making it more dangerous for San Francisco. She’s trying to rile up her citizens so that they come down there and try to chase us out. She’s using that rhetoric. It’s just going to cause more violence and put more people in danger.”