After weeks of speculation, it’s officially confirmed that Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has been fired.
For a while now, reports have circulated that the President has become increasingly frustrated with his head stooge and that that frustration boiled over when Bannon sought out an interview with the American Prospect in which he outwardly contradicted Trump on a number of issues, not the least of which was his strategy on North Korea.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a brief statement confirming Bannon’s departure but failed to say whether he was fired or resigned.
“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” read the statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
From the start, Bannon’s position in the White House has raised eyebrows. As a founder of Breitbart, an alt-right, white supremacist-friendly outpost, his ideology has long been questioned not only by the Democrats but by moderate Republicans as well. It was Bannon’s strategy to openly court the alt-right and foment a xenophobic fear of globalism to shore up Trump’s base — it proved a winning combination. To be sure, the President’s enthusiasm and commitment to this abject manipulation of his alt-right supporters has never wavered. If anything, he has only doubled down on the strategy.
In the wake of the President’s off-the-rails reaction to the hate rally in Virginia, however, there has been increasing pressure to get rid of Bannon. Many in the press have wondered whether the Trump’s reticence for his removal may have been a fear that his base would abandon him or that Bannon might attack him in Breitbart. It’s a fear that may be well founded as he has announced that he will return to his former position with the site. What was ultimately behind Trump pulling the trigger is still unclear, though it has been widely reported that he believed Bannon to be the major leaker in the White House. Now that he is a free agent, it would only seem logical that he would be an even bigger liability.
It will be interesting to see how Bannon will spin his dismissal and what potential damage he could do to the President in the press. There is also another interesting wrinkle to consider. In his interview with the American Prospect, Bannon described the alt-right fringe as ‘clowns’ . It was a shocking repudiation of his key support system. Whether they will choose to forgive and forget is also unclear. One thing we do know, is that without Bannon, Donald’s precious base has never been as vulnerable as it is today. Will they choose to stick with him to the very end? And to what lengths will the President go to ensure they don’t leave in droves?
This story is developing.