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Steve Bannon is out, White House confirms

'White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day'

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 18 August 2017 18:16 BST
Strategist Steve Bannon leaves Trump's turbulent White House

Donald Trump's controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon is leaving the White House - after seven controversial months.

Mr Bannon was the force behind some of Mr Trump’s most contentious policies, including the travel ban on people from a number of Muslim-majority countries. He also appeared to relish the battles with more moderate factions in a Trump administration that has been riven with rivalries - with Mr Trump making no secret of the fact he likes competition

The 63-year-old and the White House parted company - it was not immediately clear if he was fired or quit - a year after the took over the management of Mr Trump's presidential campaign.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders spokeswoman said in a statement: “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.”

Trump officials suggested that a number of leaks in recent weeks about his potential fate were aimed at obtaining Mr Bannon’s resignation, while Bannon allies said that the soon-to-be former White House strategist had actually submitted his resignation more than two weeks ago.

That violence, which started during a white nationalist protest about the removal of a Confederate statue in the city, and included the killing of a counter-protester by a car being driven through a crowd - may have sealed the timing of Mr Bannon’s departure. Mr Trump has faced days of criticism over his response to the violence having flip-flopped between blaming both sides and condemning white nationalist, KKK and neo-Nazi groups specifically. Many have said his condemnation has been nowhere near strong enough.

Mr Bannon former editor-in-chief for the Breitbart website - which he had previously called a “platform for the alt-right” was a man known for his right-wing nationalist views and in the wake of Charlottesville many called for his dismissal.

Democrats were quick to jump on the news to push for further change. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the departure of Mr Bannon is “welcome news,” but called on President Trump to fire additional staff.

Ms Pelosi said in a statement that Mr Bannon's departure “doesn't disguise where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists and the bigoted beliefs they advance.”

Ms Pelosi said Mr Trump's administration “must not only purge itself of the remaining white supremacists on staff, but abandon the bigoted ideology that clearly governs its decisions.”

“There is one less white supremacist in the White House, but that doesn't change the man sitting behind the Resolute desk,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Tyler said, referring to Trump's Oval Office desk. “Donald Trump has spent decades fueling hate in communities, including his recent attempts to divide our country and give a voice to white supremacists.

Scaramucci to Colbert: 'If it were up to me, Bannon would be gone'

When Mr Bannon was hired in 2016, he was said to be impressed by Mr Trump's ability to launch an aggressive, populist campaign that played into the concerns and anxieties of many working Americans. He encouraged to press this approach on every issue and was delighted to see the New York tycoon frequently act like a political cage fighter, rather than a typical political candidate. He also relished in his role as man who considered the media “the opposition”.

There had been speculation about Mr Bannon being fired almost as soon as he took on the role of special advisor to the President and occupied an office in the West Wing. There were reports that he clashed with Mr Trump’s original chief of staff Reince Preibus, National Economic Council chairman Gary Cohn - as well as Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It would appear to have been a clash of styles, with his rivals preferring a push for the centre ground, while Mr Bannon preferred to stick to his hard conservative agenda.

Yet reports also said that the former Naval officer was one of the few people whom Mr Trump felt he could connect with on a visceral level. It was Mr Bannon, reports said, who got Mr Trump. Mr Bannon was also the lone White House senior staff member to staunchly defend Mr Trump over his Charlottesville comments, telling the New York Times: “President Trump, by asking, ‘Where does this all end?’ – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln – connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions.”

In a tumultuous tenure Mr Bannon quickly a reputation for potentially being the power behind the throne, with a Time magazine cover proclaiming him “the great manipulator”. But the one-time investment banker and movie producer, retreated to the background in recent months after the assorted problems with the travel ban and reports Mr Trump had been irked by his increased profile.

But a clear indication that Mr Bannon was heading for the door came earlier this week when Mr Trump gave only a half-hearted defence of him as he spoke about his presidential campaign.

“I like Mr Bannon,” he said “He’s a friend of mine. But Mr Bannon came on very late, you know that.

“I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him.”

Another clue that Mr Bannon knew his time was up came the following day when the strategist placed a call to a journalist from American Prospect magazine. In the call he described the far right “a fringe element,” and a “collection of clowns”.

“I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more,” he said, just days after Mr Trump said “two sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville.

He said he was also confident about his ability to defeat his opponents with the Departments of State and Treasury. He said: “They're wetting themselves.“

Mr Bannon is the third senior member of staff to leave the White House in less than a month, following Mr Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci. His departure will also cast a cloud over the future of the group of allies he had brought into the White House, such as Sebastian Gorka, who presents himself on frequent cable TV appearances as a national security expert but is not part of the National Security Council team.

Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, said Bannon's departure was a sign of Chief of Staff Mr Kelly's strength, despite Mr Bannon being popular with Mr Trump's supporter base..

“What it means is there is a strong chief of staff and that's good,” Mr Bennett said. “It's not only good. It's needed.”

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