Chief strategist Steve Bannon exits Trump White House
Former Breitbart executive Steve Bannon is the latest casualty of White House power struggles. US President Donald Trump’s chief strategist has departed at the urging of the chief of staff, retired General John Kelly.
Kelly and Bannon “have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
Bannon joined the Trump presidential campaign as chief executive in August 2016, and went on to become President Trump’s “chief strategist,” a position created specifically for him, while former GOP chairman Reince Priebus was appointed chief of staff.
The president’s critics have called for Bannon’s removal almost from the very beginning, accusing the former Breitbart News chief executive of being a racist, white supremacist, and Islamophobe.
Bannon is a former US Navy officer who worked at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s and was one of the founders of Breitbart, a conservative news outlet.
Earlier this week, when reporters asked Trump about Bannon and his alleged support for white nationalism, Trump called him a friend.
“He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He’s a good person,” Trump said at a press conference on Tuesday. “I think the press treats him very unfairly.”
It was the same phrasing he used about his former national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, who resigned under media pressure in February.
On Wednesday, the left-leaning publication American Prospect published an interview in which Bannon talked about the US “trade war” with China and dismissed the prospects of military confrontation with North Korea. Bannon also described white nationalists as “losers” and “a fringe element” that needs to be crushed.
A number of conservatives sent an a letter to Trump endorsing Bannon on Friday morning, the Washington Times reported.
“While others may come and go in the White House, we feel sure that with Steve and Kellyanne at your side, you will always hear the voices of those of us who have supported you through thick and thin, despite the efforts by some to ‘manage’ you and your message,” said the letter, signed by the leaders of Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Limited Government, UrbanCure, the American Family Association, ConservativeHQ.com, and the Center for Security Policy.
Bannon is the latest casualty of the purge of Trump’s senior staff that began in late July with the departure of press secretary Sean Spicer, followed by Priebus and communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who was on the job for only 11 days.
Kelly, a retired Marine who previously headed the Department of Homeland Security, was appointed the new chief of staff to “restore order,” according to reporters covering the White House.
Bannon’s departure ‘a victory for generals & Goldman Sachs people’
Bannon’s sudden fall from power was no surprise, as he irritated many powerful figures inside and outside the Trump administration, including top military brass and banking leaders, political experts told RT.
“This is the victory for the generals, it’s the victory for the Goldman Sachs people, the Koch brothers, the multi-billionaires who hated Bannon, and a lot of bad people are opening champagne over this now,” Lew Rockwell, chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, said.
Investigative journalist Rick Sterling said Bannon was the one who crafted Trump’s agenda at crucial times, describing the Breitbart executive as “a strong political ideologue with a lot of beliefs many people would not subscribe to.”
The power struggle and Bannon’s removal from the West Wing have been coming for some time, Sterling said, adding that “it was… ‘four against one,’ which is General Kelly as well as Generals Mattis and McMaster, and other White House advisers ganging up against Bannon in terms of policy.”
Sterling said the idea that someone in the White House could change the foreign policy establishment’s philosophy of interventionism was a “substantial base of attacks on Trump,” eventually leading to Bannon’s removal. “This is certainly not good news despite, one can say, Bannon wasn’t the model of policy that we would uphold, especially on domestic issues, immigration and so forth.”
Charles Ortel, an American political analyst and writer who considers himself to be a friend of Bannon, defended the former White House chief strategist, saying it was “outrageous” for some mainstream media to accuse him of being a white supremacist.
“Anybody who knows and understands the history of America, knows and understands there were many Democrats who stood in opposition to the Civil Liberties Act… and who were members of Ku-Klux-Klan.”
He said that Bannon, “a very experienced guy,” had nevertheless “allowed himself to do a few mistakes, and it just became necessary to make an exit.”