WASHINGTON, D.C. –
As has been tumbling vigorously in the Beltway rumor mill and outside of it for close to a month, White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon has been fired by Donald Trump – as confirmed by White House Deputy Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders. “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,” Sanders said in a statement.
That’s the White House version. Unofficial reports circulating, have it that Bannon did not voluntarily submit a resignation but instead was cashiered. CNN’s sources told them that Bannon’s dismissal has been a plan in process for at least a few weeks.
The news on Bannon’s firing is preliminary and the president himself has not been available for comment yet, but sources within the administration attribute Bannon’s dismissal to two key factors.
One, is that Trump – as is generally well known, is very angry whenever he perceives any subordinate to be pulling the limelight away from him. There were numerous occasions when Bannon gave Trump indigestion on this front.
“That f–king Steve Bannon taking credit for my election,” Trump recently told a confidant, in reference to a newly published book which focused on Bannon’s influence and role in Trump’s election – Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.
Trump had earlier made publicly deflating comments such as this recent aside to the New York Post, in April:
“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
Another point of contention was Bannon’s interview with the American Prospect, in which Bannon second guessed Trump’s recent statements of policy on North Korea. Among them, was this comment to the Prospect’s Robert Kuttner:
“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten 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.”
Of Bannon’s struggles to steer foreign policy and domestic economic policy, Bannon alluded to what observers have been long reporting – the feuding going on between various players in the White House and himself in particular. “That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said. “We’re still fighting. There’s Treasury and [National Economic Council chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying.”
The most unusual aspect of the interview with Kuttner – aside from the fact that the American Prospect is, to put it mildly, not a proponent of the Trump presidency – is Bannon’s frank comments about a movement that is most identified with him and the media outlet he took over from Andrew Breitbart:
“Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more. These guys are a collection of clowns.”
This, naturally would have rankled Trump, who had just issued what he believed to be a cleverly parsed equivocation about Charlottesville, dog whistling to the openly and crypto-racists in his political base. Trump does not want to issue a clear repudiation to them and Bannon, in the statement, cuts them loose like excess ballast in an aircraft that is losing altitude.
Certain of Bannon’s allies expressing consternation on his dismissal and their sense of uncertainty of what lies ahead with the Trump presidency, told Buzzfeed:
“At the end of the day if Bannon is fired, this Republican White House, which is supposed to be nationalist conservative, would be fully staffed by generals, Democrats, Clinton voters and the occasional Bush aide,” The second Bannon ally said, acidly. “What is this, the Twilight Zone?”