Late this week, President Donald Trump began telling senior staffers and outside confidants that he intended to sack Steve Bannon, the nationalist firebrand and White House chief strategist who helped steer Trump’s chaotic presidential campaign to victory.
Two Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast on Friday that the president has said that he wanted Bannon “out” and “gone” this week.
On Friday afternoon, they made it official, with chief of staff John Kelly informing Bannon of the change in direction.
Bannon did not respond to requests for comment on this story, but multiple reporters tweeted that Bannon had told them he had submitted his resignation on August 7, with an effective date of August 14—exactly one year to the date of him joining Trump on the 2016 campaign. Per the Team Bannon narrative, he stayed on through the week to help with the chaos in the wake of the white-supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day,” read a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
The confusing, competing narratives over the timing of Bannon’s departure is an appropriate coda to White House stint that has been increasingly chaotic for months. Bannon has butted heads for months with various senior administration officials, including Trump family member Jared Kushner. If he knew he was leaving the White House early in August, he wasn’t telling close allies and associates.
As The Daily Beast reported on Sunday, Bannon had privately told friends—well after August 7—that Trump and Kelly weren’t itching to fire him; indeed, even supporting him. According to multiple sources close to Bannon and the president, Bannon has described Trump in conversations as “one of us” and a fellow right-wing “nationalist,” who still wanted a him working in his West Wing, despite external and internal pressures.
As we now know, Bannon would not last the month.
Towards the end of his tenure, even Bannon’s fellow anti-immigration hardliners and nationalist fellow travelers in the White House—such as senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and presidential assistant and Bannon’s former Breitbart employee Julia Hahn—had started to distance themselves from him. According to multiple White House sources, they vented about Bannon behind his back, viewing him as a leaker, as a shameless self-promoter, and as a “glory hog,” as another senior official characterized their sentiments.
“They’ve turned on Steve,” as one White House official told The Daily Beast, request anonymity in order to speak freely about internal drama.
Bannon has consistently denied allegations of engineering aggressive leak and smear campaigns against his Trump administration enemies. Now, however, he s plotting his next moves.
“Bannon had one hell of a run…” influential conservative figure and commentator Matt Drudge tweeted, shortly before Bannon’s exit was made official.
Bannon has privately mused about returning to the pro-Trump website Breitbart, which he ran before joining the Trump campaign, or even attempting to launch the vast, Fox-News-rivalling media empire that he had envisioned with Roger Ailes shortly before Ailes died. In May, one source close to President Trump’s now former chief strategist described Bannon’s unrealized dream project as “Bannon TV.”
While there are several West Wing officials who are cheering Bannon’s demise, others fear the kind of damage he could do now that he’s exiled from the administration. “There are some who are genuinely worried about what he could do from the outside, if thrown out,” a White House official conceded earlier this week.
Bannon continues to wield influence among pro-Trump media and the heavy-hitter Republican donors the Mercer family. And in the immediate aftermath of his departure, a top Breitbart editor signalled that the site would wage “#WAR” on the Trump administration.
“If he leaves, it’s French Revolution,” one source close to Bannon told The Daily Beast, minutes before news of Bannon’s exit broke on Friday afternoon.