2ND UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long. Hours after news broke that chief strategist is leaving the Trump administration, Breitbart announced that he is returning to the alt-right outlet as executive chairman — the post he held from 2012-16 before joining Donald Trump’s campaign.
Breitbart.com’s headline on its Bannon story calls him a “populist hero.” “The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today,” Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow said in the post. “Breitbart gained an executive chairman with his finger on the pulse of the Trump agenda.”
UDPATED with White House statement: White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is the latest staffer from the Donald Trump administration to be shown the door, with the White House confirming media reports that the onetime Brietbart News boss will exit his post.
After confirming the news to CNN, the White House then issued a brief 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.”
Bannon, at one time dabbling as a Hollywood producer, was chairman of Trump’s national campaign and a key member of the president’s inner circle, considered a critical architect of Trump’s populist messaging that won him the 2016 election. But he had been somewhat pushed to the back row amid the administration’s various internal catfights that have seen the likes of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci all exit their West Wing posts in recent weeks.
The New York Times, among the first to report the move this morning, said Bannon and Trump were in discussions today about an exit strategy, with sources saying it was Bannon’s idea to leave and that he had submitted his resignation more than a week ago. The paper said Trump has told senior officials that Bannon will be leaving, it’s just a matter of when. The timing, though, comes a day after an extensively quoted Bannon piece in The American Prospect in which he often ran counter to the administration’s stances on foreign policy — especially on China and North Korea — and said he was looking forward to ousting some of his rivals in the government.
Bannon, a lightning rod both inside and outside the White House for his ties to Breitbart News and its often nationalist, racially charged coverage, was absent from the list of top officials set to meet with Trump and VP Mike Pence today at Camp David to discuss international issues. He had been a member of the National Security Council before he was removed by Trump in April.
The news comes amid the backlash from the violent clashes in Charlottesville, VA, between white nationalists and neo-Nazi marchers and protesters. Heather Heyer was killed when a car driven by a reported white nationalist slammed into a crowd. Trump has received as much critical heat as at any point of his presidency after Tuesday’s wild press conference in which he doubled down on his assertions that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Virginia over the weekend.
Vanity Fair‘s Gabriel Sherman says his sources are telling him Bannon likely will return to his Breitbart News post. Breitbart’s lead Bannon story today is a repost of the NYT report.
The inner battles among White House staffers have been well known. Scaramucci, during his late-night farewell tour of sorts this week, told Stephen Colbert on Tuesday that Bannon was a leaker, noting “he got caught on tape saying he was.” It came the day before an NYT report that said Rupert Murdoch had advised Trump to fire Bannon, with Jared Kushner and new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly agreeing.
Bannon was an executive producer on Sean Penn’s 1991 movie The Indian Runner, among other mostly right-wing documentary credits, and his Bannon & Co. media investment concern negotiated the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment to Ted Turner.