WASHINGTON, D.C.: Donald Trump parted ways with his controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon on Friday (Saturday in Manila) as the White House reeled from the fallout over the president’s much-criticized response to a violent white supremacist rally.
But the 63-year-old—whose departure caps one of the most disastrous weeks of the already chaotic young Trump administration—vowed to keep pushing the president’s right-wing agenda, as he returned to his former home at the ultra-conservative Breitbart News.
“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,” the hero of the so-called “alt right” told Bloomberg News within hours of leaving the White House.
Bannon’s departure amounts to a nod to members of Trump’s government and Republican Party who grew increasingly frustrated with the anti-establishment firebrand.
It remains to be seen what role the serial provocateur—who was credited with a major role in Trump’s upset election victory—will continue play from outside the White House.
In comments to the Weekly Standard, he made clear his commitment to the nationalist-populist “movement” that carried Trump to power.
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else.”
Bannon’s presence in the West Wing had been contested from the start, and with Trump under fire for insisting anti-racism protesters were equally to blame for violence at a weekend rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president faced renewed pressure to let him go.
Five top aides out
Trump, who rose to political prominence by casting doubt on whether Barack Obama, America’s first black president, was born in the United States, did condemn neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan once this week. But the next day he reverted angrily to his initial stance—effectively setting a moral equivalence between the white supremacists at the Virginia rally and anti-racism counter demonstrators there.
“Steve Bannon’s firing is welcome news, but it doesn’t disguise where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists and the bigoted beliefs they advance,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Bannon was the nucleus of one of several competing power centers in a chaotic White House, and reportedly fell into disfavor for allegedly leaking stories about colleagues who he felt did not sufficiently adhere to his populist agenda.
Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Friday that the president’s new chief of staff John Kelly and Bannon had “mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” adding: “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
Kelly, a no-nonsense former Marine general, had reportedly warned he would not tolerate what he saw as Bannon’s behind the scenes maneuvering.
And Trump was reportedly furious about an interview in which his aide contradicted his own position on North Korea.
Since taking office in January, Trump has lost five top aides: Bannon, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, press secretary Sean Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus and communications director Anthony Scaramucci.