Tuesday 17 July 2018

President sacks controversial chief strategist Bannon

Donald Trump’s chief strategist and chief executive of his successful presidential election campaign Steve Bannon will leave his role at the White House next Friday. Picture: Reuters
Donald Trump’s chief strategist and chief executive of his successful presidential election campaign Steve Bannon will leave his role at the White House next Friday. Picture: Reuters

Ashley Parker

President Donald Trump last night dismissed his embattled chief strategist, Stephen Bannon - an architect of his 2016 general-election victory and the champion of his nationalist impulses - in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest.

With Trump's presidency floundering and his legislative agenda in shambles, administration officials said his empowered new chief of staff, John Kelly, moved to fire Bannon in an effort to tame warring factions and bring stability to a White House at risk of caving under its self-destructive tendencies.

A combative populist on trade and immigration, Bannon was arguably Trump's ideological id on the issues that propelled his candidacy. He served as a key liaison to the president's conservative base and the custodian of his campaign promises.

Bannon had been a lightning rod for controversy since joining Trump's campaign last summer, but he attracted particular scorn in recent days for encouraging and amplifying the president's divisive remarks in the wake of last weekend's deadly white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a Friday afternoon statement to reporters: "White House Chief of Staff John F 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."

Some White House officials also said that they expect some of Bannon's allies inside the administration to exit with him. Two such people are national security aide Sebastian Gorka and presidential assistant Julia Hahn, although both have portrayed themselves in recent talks with colleagues as Trump allies first and Bannon allies second.

Bannon - a former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a fiery, hard-right site that has gone to war with the Republican establishment - for months was locked in a tortuous battle with Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and a coterie of like-minded senior aides, many with Wall Street ties.

Bannon had been expecting to be cut loose from the White House. One colleague said that Bannon was resigned to that fate and is determined to continue to advocate for Trump's agenda on the outside.

But Bannon has told associates that if he were to leave the White House, the conservative populist movement that lifted Trump in last year's campaign would be at risk.

Bannon allies said they expect him to remain largely loyal to the president, while training his harshest fire on those in Trump's orbit he believes bring a Democratic, "globalist" worldview to the administration.

But with Bannon out of the West Wing, Breitbart News is more likely to begin mobilising its audience against the White House on issues such as immigration, where it thinks Trump is not keeping his campaign promises. (© Washington Post Syndication)

Irish Independent

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