Steve Bannon Fired as Trump White House's top Strategist

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, on Aug. 2 at the White House.

Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election but clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers, is leaving his post, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday.

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

Earlier on Friday, the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion. But a person close to Mr. Bannon insisted that the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week. But the move was delayed after the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

The loss of Mr. Bannon, the right-wing nationalist who helped propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality, raises the potential for the president to face criticism from the conservative news media base that supported him over the past year.

Mr. Bannon’s many critics bore down after the violence in Charlottesville. Outraged over Mr. Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead, human rights activists demanded that the president fire so-called nationalists working in the West Wing. That group of hard-right populists in the White House is led by Mr. Bannon.

On Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, Mr. Trump refused to guarantee Mr. Bannon’s job security but defended him as “not a racist” and “a friend.”

“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Bannon’s dismissal followed an Aug. 16 interview he initiated with a writer with whom he had never spoken, with the progressive publication The American Prospect. In it, Mr. Bannon mockingly played down the American military threat to North Korea as nonsensical: “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

He also bad-mouthed his colleagues in the Trump administration, vowed to oust a diplomat at the State Department and mocked officials as “wetting themselves” over the consequences of radically changing trade policy.

Of the far right, he said, “These guys are a collection of clowns,” and he called it a “fringe element” of “losers.”

“We gotta help crush it,” he said in the interview, which people close to Mr. Bannon said he believed was off the record.

Privately, several White House officials said that Mr. Bannon appeared to be provoking Mr. Trump and that they did not see how the president could keep him on after the interview was published.

Mr. Bannon’s departure was long rumored in Washington. Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who was brought on as chief of staff for his ability to organize a chaotic staff, was said to have grown weary of the chief strategist’s long-running feud with Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser.

One White House official, who would not be named discussing the president’s thinking, said Mr. Trump has wanted to remove Mr. Bannon since he ousted Reince Priebus as his chief of staff three weeks ago; Mr. Bannon had been aligned with Mr. Priebus. But Mr. Trump changed his mind as several defenders of Mr. Bannon warned the president that he risked losing supporters who saw Mr. Bannon as a conduit of their views.

Since then, Mr. Kelly has been evaluating Mr. Bannon’s status, according to the official. The president and Mr. Kelly have talked over the past several days and Mr. Bannon had planned to put his resignation in motion in the coming days, this person said.

Mr. Bannon has been in a battle with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, since the spring.

Mr. Bannon, whose campaign against “globalists” was a hallmark of his tenure steering the right-wing website Breitbart.com, and Mr. Kushner had been allies throughout the transition process and through the beginning of the administration.

But their alliance ruptured as Mr. Trump elevated the roles of Gary D. Cohn, his top economic policy adviser and a former official at Goldman Sachs, and Dina Powell, a former Bush administration official who also worked on Wall Street. Mr. Cohn is a registered Democrat, and both he and Ms. Powell have been denounced by conservative media outlets as being antithetical to Mr. Trump’s populist message.

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By Coby Forster 08/18/2017 14:21:00
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