President Donald Trump on Friday fired his chief strategist Steve Bannon in the latest White House shake-up, removing a far-right architect of his 2016 election victory and a driving force behind his nationalist and anti-globalisation agenda.
Bannon’s firing, a year and a day after Trump hired him as his campaign chief, put an abrupt end to the rabble-rousing political provocateur’s tumultuous tenure in a White House riven with rivalries and back-stabbing during which he clashed with more-moderate factions.
He was instrumental in some of Trump’s most contentious policy moves including the ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries, abandoning the Paris climate accord, tearing up international trade agreements and cracking down on illegal immigration. He was no friend of the Republican political establishment and was loathed by liberals but was a darling of some of the president’s hard-line conservative supporters.
White House officials said Trump had told new Chief of Staff John Kelly to crack down on the bickering and infighting, and that Bannon’s fate was sealed by comments published on Wednesday in the American Prospect liberal magazine in which he spoke of targeting his adversaries within the administration.
Trump, seven months into his presidency, has become increasingly isolated over his comments following white supremacist violence in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville last Saturday and his attacks on fellow Republicans. Some Republicans had even begun questioning Trump’s capacity to govern.
As Trump came under fire from Republicans including two former presidents, and from business leaders and U.S. allies abroad, he faced mounting calls for Bannon’s ouster. Critics had accused Bannon of harbouring anti-Semitic and white nationalist sentiments.
“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Bannon returned to his post as executive chairman of right-wing Breitbart News on Friday afternoon, the website said. Prior to joining the Trump campaign, he had spearheaded Breitbart’s shift into a forum for the “alt-right,” a loose online confederation of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.
Bannon said his departure from the White House signals a major shift for the Trump agenda. “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon told the conservative Weekly Standard.
“I just think his ability to get anything done – particularly the bigger things, like the wall, the bigger, broader things that we fought for, it’s just gonna be that much harder,” Bannon said.
He said he would use Breitbart to attack opponents of the populist and nationalist agenda he championed, including establishment Republicans. “I am definitely going to crush the opposition,” Bannon said.
He became the latest key figure to abruptly depart a Trump White House that has been chaotic from its first days and already has lost a chief of staff, a national security adviser, two communications directors and a chief spokesman.
Trump’s presidency also has been dogged by ongoing investigations in Congress and a special counsel named by the Justice Department into potential collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia, something both Trump and Moscow deny.
Bannon, 63, is a former U.S. Navy officer, Goldman Sachs investment banker and Hollywood movie producer.
He had been in a precarious position before but Trump opted to keep him, in part because he had played a major role in Trump’s November 2016 election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton and was backed by many of the president’s most loyal rank-and-file supporters.
Democrats cheered Bannon’s departure.