Bannon leaves White House but vows to fight on for Trump

Mr Stephen Bannon had been complaining that President Donald Trump lacked the political skills and discipline to avoid a series of self-inflicted public relations disasters, according to a source close to both men.
Mr Stephen Bannon had been complaining that President Donald Trump lacked the political skills and discipline to avoid a series of self-inflicted public relations disasters, according to a source close to both men.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI (LEFT) AND SEAN SPICER (RIGHT).
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI (LEFT) AND SEAN SPICER (RIGHT).
REINCE PRIEBUS (LEFT) AND MICHAEL FLYNN (RIGHT).
REINCE PRIEBUS (LEFT) AND MICHAEL FLYNN (RIGHT).
K. T. MCFARLAND (LEFT) AND KATIE WALSH (RIGHT).
K. T. MCFARLAND (LEFT) AND KATIE WALSH (RIGHT).
MIKE DUBKE
MIKE DUBKE

Bannon leaves White House but vows to fight on for Trump; another adviser steps down

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump parted ways with his controversial chief strategist Stephen Bannon last Friday as the White House reeled from the fallout over the President's much-criticised response to a violent white supremacist rally.

The sense of chaos continued yesterday as Mr Carl Icahn, a billionaire who was advising Mr Trump on regulatory issues, announced he was stepping down from that role over concerns of conflict of interest.

But Mr Bannon, 63 - 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.

Mr Bannon's departure amounts to a nod to members of Mr Trump's government and the 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 Mr Trump's upset election victory - will continue to play from outside the White House.

Mr Bannon was the nucleus of one of several competing power centres in a chaotic White House, and reportedly fell into disfavour for allegedly leaking stories about colleagues he felt did not sufficiently adhere to his populist agenda.

  • How long they lasted

  • Since the Trump administration took over the White House earlier this year, no fewer than 13 officials have left. Here are a few notable ones:

    ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI
    Communications director

    Lasted: 10 days

    Former Wall Street financier was fired after an expletive-laden phone interview with The New Yorker magazine.


    SEAN SPICER
    Press secretary

    Lasted: Six months

    Quit as he could not stomach Mr Scaramucci as the White House's new communications director.


    REINCE PRIEBUS
    Chief of staff

    Lasted: Six months

    Fired shortly after Mr Scaramucci let rip in The New Yorker interview, claiming Mr Priebus had leaked information.


    MICHAEL FLYNN
    National security adviser

    Lasted: Three weeks

    Dropped after it emerged he lied to Vice-President Mike Pence about his communications with Russia's ambassador to the US.


    K. T. MCFARLAND
    Deputy national security adviser

    Lasted: Four months

    Quit when her boss, Mr Michael Flynn, was given the boot. She was later nominated to be the US ambassador to Singapore.


    KATIE WALSH
    Deputy chief of staff

    Lasted: Two months

    The Priebus ally was said to have been forced out by Mr Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and other officials.


    MIKE DUBKE
    Communications director

    Lasted: Three months

    Resigned for personal reasons at the start of a promised shake-up of staff in May.

Mr Trump had recently grown weary of Mr Bannon, complaining to other advisers that he believed his chief strategist had been leaking to reporters and was taking too much credit for the President's successes. The situation had become untenable long before last Friday, according to advisers close to Mr Trump who had been urging the President to remove Mr Bannon; in turn, people close to Mr Bannon also were urging him to step down.

Mr Bannon had become increasingly critical of Mr Trump, said a person close to both men, complaining that the President lacked the political skills and discipline to avoid a series of self-inflicted public relations disasters.

But ultimately, he viewed the President as losing sight of what propelled Mr Trump to the White House. On the one hand, Mr Bannon told friends that Mr Trump was a populist savant who had a deeper connection with the alienated white working class than any politician in the last half-century.

But Mr Bannon, a former naval officer, also saw the President as increasingly trapped by the generals he surrounded himself with, and moving towards an interventionist foreign policy.

Mr Bannon complained about the President's provocative and unscripted threats to North Korea and was especially concerned about a wider attempt to reassert US military power in the Western Hemisphere.

He told his small circle of like-minded confidants in the West Wing that he feared the President would be talked into an intervention in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro has been cracking down on the opposition amid a deteriorating situation.

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 former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus three weeks ago. 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, timed to his anniversary of working for Mr Trump.

According to three people close to the discussions, Mr Trump and Mr Bannon agreed during the previous week that he would depart. But the violence in Charlottesville pushed Mr Bannon closer to Mr Trump; he encouraged the President to stand by his impulses in his response and, one of the three people said, sought to stay on longer.

That became untenable after an interview with The American Prospect, in which he mocked colleagues, though he later said he thought it was off the record.

END OF TRUMP PRESIDENCY

The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over. 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. And there'll be all kinds of fights, and there'll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.

MR STEPHEN BANNON, hours after he was ousted from the White House.

In it, Mr Bannon also contradicted Mr Trump's tough threats towards North Korea, saying "there's no military solution here, they got us".

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Bannon Out'. Print Edition | Subscribe