After firing, Bannon returns to his
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[August 19, 2017]
By James Oliphant and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With Stephen Bannon,
the worry always was that he could be even more disruptive to President
Donald Trump’s White House from outside than he was within.
In the hours following his firing on Friday, those fears seemed
warranted, as the conservative voices who viewed Bannon as one of their
own howled in rage over Trump's decision to fire his chief strategist.
The reaction was most notable from Breitbart News, the hard-right news
site that Bannon ran before he joined Trump’s presidential campaign last
“WAR,” tweeted one of the site's editors, Joel Pollak, who published a
piece questioning whether Trump would now move in a more moderate
direction with Bannon out of the White House.
"Steve Bannon personified the Trump agenda," Pollak wrote.
Bannon rejoined Breitbart as executive chairman only hours after his
firing was announced. He is now expected to use it as a platform to
blast those within the White House - and perhaps Trump himself - when
they don't hew to the fiercely nationalist policies Bannon advocated as
an inside adviser.
As Trump's chief strategist, Bannon fought numerous battles with senior
Trump aides and top Republicans in Congress over the administration's
Breitbart frequently backed him up, ripping establishment Republicans
such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House
of Representatives Paul Ryan, blaming them for obstructing Trump's
More recently, the site trained its fire on Trump's national security
adviser, H.R. McMaster, after he removed officials who espoused Bannon's
foreign-policy world view.
In recent days, Bannon had told friends he is worth tens of millions of
dollars, is a worldwide leader in the populist-nationalist movement that
propelled Trump to power, and could go back to Breitbart, which he
refers to as a “killing machine”, or perhaps other endeavors financed by
the family of hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer, his longtime ally.
“Steve has a powerful voice, and he’s going to keep that voice up,” said
Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign adviser and Bannon friend. “He’s
going to continue to promote policies that got Donald Trump in the White
Bannon had clashed with the likes of Gary Cohn, the director of the
National Economic Council, and Jared Kushner, a Trump adviser and the
president’s son-in-law, both of whom favored more business-friendly,
mainstream economic policies on trade, taxes, and other matters.
While Bannon’s ouster may mean a short-term win for the relative
moderates in the West Wing, those he dubbed the "globalists," it does
not mean that policy battles on national security, immigration and the
economy will dissipate.
Trump has a shown a proclivity for seeking counsel from former advisers
such as Corey Lewandowski and Newt Gingrich and from conservative
pundits such as Sean Hannity. The outspoken and provocative Bannon could
join their number.
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White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at the
Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor,
Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts /File
And there remain other White House officials sympathetic to Bannon’s
world view, such as domestic policy adviser Stephen Miller.
Even so, Bannon's absence will be felt.
“Trump is always going to be Trump on immigration, trade, and
foreign policy. But Steve was the highest-ranking adviser who shared
Trump's world view. With him gone, there's not a replacement for
that voice in internal debates,” one administration official said.
“I think people have always overestimated how influential anyone can
be on Trump. But without Steve constantly pushing back on every
policy idea coming from the so-called 'globalists,' it's easy to see
how they could have a chance to start winning more policy battles.”
Mike Cernovich, an alt-right activist and personality, suggested to
his more than 300,000 followers on Twitter that Bannon was sacked to
ensure that the White House raises troop levels in Afghanistan,
which Bannon opposed.
“This is a full-on coup now, guys,” Cernovich said in a posted
Beyond Breitbart and the alt-right, some more traditional
conservative groups were also concerned about the implications of
Twenty Republican grassroots leaders, including longtime activists
Richard Viguerie, Jenny Beth Martin, and Ginni Thomas, wrote to
Trump earlier in the week urging him to keep Bannon on.
“We will miss Steve Bannon in the White House because he helped
President Trump keep many of the promises he made on the campaign
trail,” Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said in a
statement after Bannon’s ouster.
But she also reiterated her support for the president, saying “he is
his own man.”
If Bannon has anything to do with it, he will push to make sure that
Trump stays that way.
But some supporters still worried that the radical agenda Bannon
fought for could be at risk.
"It's a sad day for the movement," Nunberg said. "I think it will
end up being a mistake.”
(Corrects spelling of name in paragraph 22 to Viguerie.)
(Reporting by James Oliphant and Steve Holland; Writing by James
Oliphant; Editing by Kieran Murray and James Dalgleish)
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