Updated on August 18 at 6:25 p.m. ET
In firing Steve Bannon, President Trump has lost his chief ideologue, the man who channeled his base and advocated for the populist-nationalist policies that helped propel Trump to victory.
But he has gained an unpredictable and potentially troublesome outside ally who has long experience running a media organization, and an even longer list of enemies with whom he has scores to settle both outside the administration and inside. “Steve is now unchained,” said a source close to Bannon. “Fully unchained.”
“He’s going nuclear,” said another friend. “You have no idea. This is gonna be really fucking bad.”
Bannon had in recent days mused about leaving, according to people who have spoken with him; he has expressed to friends that he feels the administration is failing and is a sinking ship. And last week, he told people in a meeting that he would have 10 times more influence outside the White House than inside it.
Breitbart News announced on Friday evening—in a post lauding him as a “populist hero”—that Bannon had returned to the site as the executive chairman and had led the evening editorial meeting. He met with Alex Marlow, Breitbart’s editor in chief, on Sunday and Monday, according to a source close to Bannon. Under his prior leadership, Breitbart morphed into an aggressive pro-Trump outlet, voicing many themes of his campaign even before he declared his candidacy. Since Trump took office, it has often seemed to function as a PR shop for Bannon’s faction of the White House. It has frequently run stories attacking his rivals, including, most recently, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and National Economic Council chair Gary Cohn.