Steve Bannon, the enigmatic but influential strategist who joined Donald Trump’s campaign at a low ebb, helped coax a win in the 2016 election from it, and then won acclaim and hatred as Trump’s eminence grise, is leaving the White House.
It is the latest in a string of senior departures from a White House that—like the Republican Party itself—was split between establishment Republicans and populist outsiders. But Bannon’s exit, following on the heels of those other departures, leaves Trump largely untethered from the Republican Party—and the president’s ideology, never especially defined on most issues, even more up for grabs.
In a statement Friday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “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.” The New York Times had reported that Trump had told aides he was going to remove Bannon. Rumors of Bannon’s demise have bubbled up repeatedly over Trump’s seven months in office, but each time they proved to be wrong—or at least premature.
When Trump entered the White House, following an upset victory over Hillary Clinton, he sought to create a team that would blend the traditional Republican Party establishment, which had reluctantly embraced him after he won the GOP nomination, with the outsider group that had helped him rise on a wave of populism, noninterventionism, and white identity politics. From the traditional wing, Trump brought White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. From the populist far-right, he brought Bannon, along with Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions. He rounded his team out with a motley bunch of relatives, business hangers-on, and ex-military officials.