Chief political strategist Steve Bannon is out from President Donald Trump’s White House and back at the far-right news website that launched him to political prominence.
Trump told two senior aides that he decided to let go Bannon, according to The New York Times. The chief strategist insists that he resigned Aug. 7, but his departure was delayed because of the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A White House official told CNN that Bannon was supposed to be fired two weeks ago along with former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus — but that Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, asked Trump to keep him.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Bannon’s departure in a written statement.
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“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day,” it read. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
Bannon’s departure comes after mounting calls for his dismissal from critics across the ideological spectrum — especially after Trump’s lukewarm condemnation of white nationalism and racism following the clashes between white supremacists and anti-racist counter protesters in Charlottesville that left three dead and dozens injured.
Before joining Trump’s campaign last August, Bannon ran the far-right media outlet Breitbart, which he described as a “platform for the alt-right.” He is credited with helping shape the populist, nationalistic rhetoric that secured Trump the presidency. In a tweet sent Friday evening, Breitbart confirmed that Bannon will now return to the site as its executive chairman. He had previously served as its CEO.
There has long been tension between members of the White House and Bannon, according to reports. The relationship between Bannon and the new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly quickly “soured,” according to CNN, while national security adviser H.R. McMaster dodged three questions from NBC’s Chuck Todd Sunday on whether he could work with the former chairman of Breitbart news.
“Can you and Steve Bannon still work together?” Todd asked.
“I get to work together with a broad range of talented people,” McMaster said. “It’s a privilege every day to enable the national security team.”
Trump reportedly believes that Bannon was behind leaks in stories on Breitbart that targeted and pushed for the firing of McMaster, according to Axios. Bannon denied leaking any information, while Trump publicly defended McMaster as “our friend.”
Bannon also reportedly cautioned Trump from criticizing members of the alt-right too harshly, as he warned it could turn off a highly-supportive portion of the president’s base, according to The New York Times.
But Trump’s first statement following the unrest in Charlottesville — largely criticized for not explicitly condemning white supremacists and instead saying the violence was from “many sides” — only strengthened the bipartisan chorus of critics who wanted Bannon gone.
Trump did explicitly condemn white supremacists in remarks two days later on Monday, but then again placed blame on “both sides” in an explosive press conference the following day.
Former communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who offered a colorful attack on Bannon in an explosive article in The New Yorker, said in an interview on ABC Sunday that Trump “has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense” and fire the chief strategist.
Rupert Murdoch, a founder of Fox News, urged Trump to get rid of Bannon at a recent White House dinner as well, according to The New York Times.
Joining many other Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also demanded that Trump fire Bannon to back up his claims that he does not condone white nationalists.
“If the president is sincere about rejecting white supremacists,” she said in a statement Monday, “he should remove all doubt by firing Steve Bannon and the other alt-right white supremacist sympathizers in the White House.”
Bannon himself, in an interview with The American Prospect earlier this week, seemed to contradict Trump on multiple topics — calling white nationalists a “collection of clowns” and saying that “there's no military solution [to North Korea's nuclear threats], forget it."
Trump, who erred on the side of caution when condemning white nationalists, has taken a tough stance against North Korea, promising to unleash “fire [and] fury” on the country if it attacks the United States.
The Washington Post reported that multiple sources said Bannon was telling colleagues Friday that he was expecting to learn if he would remain in his position. One of those sources said that Bannon would be okay if he was let go, and would continue to promote Trump’s agenda.
“No matter what happens, Steve is a honey badger,” one source told the Post. “Steve's in a good place. He doesn't care. He's going to support the president and push the agenda, whether he's on the inside or the outside.”
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.