Steve Bannon has returned to the conservative website Breitbart News after being pushed out of Donald Trump’s team following a turbulent seven months.
The blunt-spoken and divisive strategist, who rose from the Trump campaign to a top White House post, was pushed out by the president on Friday. He has returned as executive chairman to Breitbart News, which he led before joining the campaign, and presided over its Friday evening editorial meeting, the news site said.
From Breitbart, there was a dramatic one-word warning. “#WAR,” tweeted senior editor at large Joel B Pollak. Several sources said Mr Bannon had been hinting for weeks that he might soon return to the helm of Breitbart News. At one point he casually discussed it as though it was a certainty, a source said.
Mr Bannon told Bloomberg politics he would continue to fight the same fights from outside the White House.
“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents – on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America,” he said.
Still, Bannon told allies he intended to hold the administration accountable if it falters on campaign promises. Mr Bannon’s turbulent tenure was marked by the departure of much of Mr Trump’s original senior staff. He pressed the president to enact some of his contentious campaign promises, including a travel ban and pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement.
Mr Trump has now forced out his hard-line national security adviser, his chief of staff, his press secretary and two communications directors. That’s on top of the FBI director he inherited from former president Barack Obama. Mr Bannon’s departure is especially significant since he was viewed as Mr Trump’s connection to his most-committed voters and the protector of the disruptive, conservative agenda that propelled him to the White House.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow if Steve is gone because you have a Republican West Wing that’s filled with generals and Democrats,” former campaign strategist Sam Nunberg said. “It would feel like the twilight zone.”
Mr Bannon’s nationalistic, outsider conservatism served as a guiding force for Mr Trump’s rise to office.
Without him, Mr Trump’s agenda is in the hands of more moderate advisers, including his son-in-law, oldest daughter and an economic adviser Mr Bannon slammed as “globalist”.
But he was also accused by critics of leaking to reporters for self-promotion and egging on Mr Trump’s most damaging impulses. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Bannon and chief of staff John Kelly, only recently installed, agreed that Friday would be his last day. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” she said.
One person close to Mr Bannon said he had offered his resignation on August 7 to go into effect a week later, the one-year anniversary of when he officially joined the presidential campaign. But they said the departure was delayed after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Mr Trump has recently downplayed Mr Bannon’s role in his campaign and avoided an opportunity to express confidence in him publicly. “He’s a good person. He actually gets very unfair press in that regard,” he said earlier this week. “But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.”
Mr Trump recently signalled to confidants that he would dismiss Mr Bannon but had not decided a timeframe, a source said. But Mr Bannon had been telling people as recently as this week that he believed his job was safe and he would leave only if fired.