White House

Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon is out at the White House

Key Points
  • White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is leaving the Trump administration.
  • White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said chief of staff John Kelly and Bannon decided Friday would be the strategist's last day.
  • Bannon was a proponent of nationalist and protectionist policies and helped to fuel Trump's rise to the presidency.
Trump decides to remove chief strategist Steve Bannon
Trump decides to remove chief strategist Steve Bannon

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the nationalist firebrand who helped to fuel Donald Trump's dizzying rise to the presidency, is leaving the administration.

"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," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Stock markets rose after Bannon's departure was reported.

Traders on the New York Stock Exchange literally cheered the news. They had been fearful of a possible departure of former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn as Trump's top economic aide. Bannon had battled with Cohn and other former Wall Streeters in the administration.

A person close to Bannon said the chief strategist first decided to leave, according to The New York Times. Bannon submitted his resignation on Aug. 7, but the announcement was delayed after violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, the newspaper reported.

When the Times reported the news of Bannon's departure earlier Friday, it said Trump and his aides were deciding when and how to dismiss him and announce the move. Kelly had reportedly been reviewing Bannon's future in the White House.

Bannon helped to power Trump to the White House with populist nationalist ideas that left many critics questioning his fitness to work as a top administration official.

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon (R) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Getty Images

However, Trump had reportedly grown increasingly angry with Bannon, and the chief strategist's influence waned. A recent widely shared interview in which he contradicted Trump's North Korea position and jabbed at colleagues may not have helped his cause with the president.

In the wake of the Charlottesville Virginia, rally, Trump faced fresh calls for Bannon's ouster because of the strategist's nationalist views.

Bannon is considered influential in Trump's proposals to overhaul free trade deals and crack down on immigration, among other policies. He also sought to reduce the government's regulatory reach.

Bannon's exit may mark a departure from some protectionist policies and actions some observers warned could escalate into a trade war with China. It is not clear how much influence Bannon really had on policy recently — Axios reported that a White House source said "he has no projects or responsibilities to hand off."

Bannon's nationalist positions pitted him against other Cohn and others in the White House who held views on issues that aligned more with the mainstream pockets of the two major political parties.

Today Bannon's last day: Official statement from White House sec.
Today Bannon's last day: Official statement from White House sec.

Trump believes Bannon fueled some of the leaks designed to hurt White House colleagues, Axios reported. Breitbart News — where Bannon was executive chairman before turning to the Trump campaign — has published repeated stories going after Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster.

Bannon also reportedly feuded with Trump's son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner.

Press coverage, including a Time magazine cover that featured "the great manipulator" Bannon, also bothered Trump, according to Axios.

In a Tuesday news conference, Trump called Bannon "a friend" and said he is "not a racist." He also contended that the press treats Bannon "unfairly."

Bannon's future 

Outside the White House, Bannon could use his media influence to lash out at people he perceives as enemies of Trump and his agenda. A source close to Bannon told Axios to "get ready for Bannon the barbarian."

Late Friday, Breitbart said on its website that Bannon had resumed his role as executive chairman of the media company. It added that Bannon chaired Breitbart's evening editorial meeting on Friday.

Reports indicated Breitbart would up its attacks on some White House officials following Bannon's departure. The website has particularly targeted what it deems the globalist wing of Trump's White House — including Cohn, Kushner and McMaster.

Joel Pollak, senior editor-at-large at Breitbart, tweeted "#WAR" after the news. He later told CNBC that "nothing changes in terms of our coverage" but called it an "open question" of whether Trump sticks with his agenda with Bannon out.

Bannon told Bloomberg that he will be "going to war" for Trump, in his first public comments since leaving the White House. He said he will target the president's opponents, including people on Capitol Hill, the media and in corporate America.

Bannon met with billionaire Robert Mercer this week, Axios reported. They could become a "well-funded force on the outside," the news outlet said.

Trump also met with Mercer the next day, according to The New York Times.

Mercer is a Trump donor and principal owner of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm used by the Trump campaign last year.

Bannon became the Trump campaign's chief executive last August and helped the president to pull off a stunning win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.