It is no longer surprising that someone else is leaving Donald Trump’s White House. It is also not surprising who is leaving the White House this week considering the unexpected “interview” he gave to the liberal media outlet, The American Prospect this week.
Steve Bannon apparently didn’t think to tell Robert Kuttner that their conversation was off-the-record; or, he no longer had any cares to give and just wanted to freely vent. Perhaps he knew what was to come by the end of the week and figured it didn’t matter what he said or to whom. He’s a bit too media savvy to let something like whether a conversation with a journalist is on the record or not.
In that interview, he had some choice words about the Trump Administration and more. Because Kuttner is a China expert, they talked a great deal about China, trade with them and their involvement in the North Korean conflict. Bannon talked about future plans he had for diplomatic relations with Korea and China, making his reasoning for doing the interview even more confusing: if he knew he was out and wanted to vent, why was he still talking like he was integrally involved with policy decisions?
Another surprising comment he made came when he was asked about recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where White Supremacists held a Unite the Right rally to protest the removal of Confederate statues; the rally was extremely violent and resulted in one protester death after a White Supremacist drove his car through a crowd of counterprotesters.
“Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element,” he stated, despite previously claiming to have created and/or cultivated the so-called “alt-right” movement through Breitbart. “Those guys are a collection of clowns,” he also said. This came after Trump had continually flip-flopped on condemning the White Surpremacists presence in Charlottesville as well as their violence, blaming “many sides” for what happened and decrying the removal of Confederate statues.
It’s unlikely that he actually disagrees with some of the core beliefs of these clownish “Ethno-nationalists,” as he calls them, because he then went on to say: “The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ‘em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
This implies that because the rioters in Charlottesville were focusing on race and identity politics, they’re “losers” and “clowns” just like the Democrats in Bannon’s eyes.
Now, in a time when “embattled” and “beleaguered” are competing for the word of the year, it seems that Bannon is, in fact, the loser.
“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,” according to Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, who has made a name for herself during Trump’s presidency for her uncanny ability to foster inside sources and tell some of the most compelling “palace intrigue” stories.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the announcement Friday, stating that Chief of Staff John Kelly had come to a mutual agreement with Steve Bannon that Friday would be his last day in the White House.
“Earlier on Friday,” Haberman continues, “the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon,” though “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.” That announcement was reportedly delayed because of the events in Charlottesville; it was also, likely, further delayed by Trump’s inconsistent remarks about those events, which created, per usual, a media frenzy.
Bannon, who represents the fringe of right-wing, conservatism in many people’s eyes, will be a tough ally to lose for Trump. Haberman credits him with helping to “propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality;” he also continues to be connected with Breitbart, which he ran prior to being hired for Trump’s campaign team. Breitbart has been one of the strongest and most vocal Trump support systems even as more mainstream conservative outlets and politicians begin to distance themselves from the president, especially in the wake of his refusal to condemn White Supremacy after Charlottesville.
This week, early Trump-supporter and founder of the “Journal of American Greatness” among other Trump-supporting sites, Julius Krein contributed an opinion piece to the Sunday Times titled: “I Voted for Trump. And I Sorely Regret It.”
Krein, who states that he supported Trump’s candidacy from the first time he saw im speak at a campaign rally and who worked hard to convert other influential conservatives to support the controversial candidate, denounced Trump’s refusal to denounce White Suupremacy in addition to listing other criticisms and encouraging readers to follow suit in abandoning the president.
“Those who found some admirable things in the hazy outlines of Mr. Trump’s campaign—a trade policy focused on national industrial development; a less quixotic foreign policy; less ideological approaches to infrastructure, health care and entitlements—will have to salvage that agenda from the wreckage of his presidency.”
He says that the optimism he felt early on in Trump’s candidacy and held onto for so long “was unfounded. I can’t stand by this disgraceful administration any longer, and I would urge anyone who once supported him as I did to stop defending the 45th president.”
Krein is not alone in his sentiments. When asked to comment on Krein’s article, one lifelong Republican voter who was previously defending her choice to vote for Trump stated simply: “I have to agree.”
If Bannon represents the fringes and Krein represents the mainstream, Trump’s support net seems to be failing at an exponential rate.
Trump has reportedly been “stewing” in private over Bannon’s comments on the record to The American Prospect.
Bannon’s ouster comes about two weeks after Anthony Scaramucci was fired. While Scaramucci served a record five short days in his position as Communication Director, Steve Bannon survived countless rumors that he was being pushed out and is, thus far, the longest serving Trump staffer to be fired, to quit, or, as in this case, some possible combination of both. Bannon served in his position as Chief Strategist for 210 days.
It seems, however, that he did, in fact, know that he was on his way out and some White House aides indicated that he may have been trying to accelerate his own ouster with his controversial interview this week. According to Haberman, “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.”
One official apparently indicated that Mr. Trump has wanted to oust Bannon since Reince Priebus was let go as chief of staff—to be replaced by General John Kelly—three weeks ago. Despite early indications that Bannon and Priebus did not care for each other, they had formed an unlikely alliance and friendship in their time working together.
Bannon has also reportedly “been in a battle with Jared Kishner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, since the spring.” That battle is also evidenced in the fringe Internet and media support Bannon is associated with. Bannon’s “campaign against ‘globalists’ was a hallmark of his tenure steering” the ship that is Breitbart; globalist is an “alt-right” term for Jewish people thinly veiled as a criticism of those who push for open international trade, borders, and the like.
Though Kushner and Bannon had found a way to work together, they had had a falling out over Gary Cohn, a registered Democrat, and Dina Powell’s elevation in the Trump administration. According to Haberman, both Cohn and Powell “have been denounced by conservative media outlets as being antithetical to Mr. Trump’s populist message.”
It is possible that the final tipping point had to do with the US’ ongoing war in Afghanistan. He had been vocal, and reportedly aggressively so, about his opposition to deepening US military presence in Afghanistan. Trump is attending a meeting Friday at Camp David to discuss the future of the Afghanistan war with his national security team; Bannon was reportedly missing from a “list of attendees the White House sent out Friday morning.”
If he was willing to talk to a progressive outlet so candidly before his ouster was officially tenured, the question now is what will he say since he is officially out? It has been rumored that he was a primary source of leaks during the first seven months of Trump’s presidency; on the record or off, he’ll definitely be a fascinating source of insider information.
UPDATE: Reports indicate that Bannon may return to Breitbart now that he is out at the White House.