Washington, Aug 19 (IANS) Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s embattled chief strategist has departed the White House after a turbulent seven-month tenure, the media reported.
Bannon’s exit, the latest in a string of high-profile West Wing shake-ups, came as critics have accused Trump of channeling him when he equated white supremacists and neo-Nazis with the left-wing protesters who opposed them during last week’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, reports The New York Times.
“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today (Friday) would be Steve’s last day,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement on Friday.
“We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
Bannon’s outsized influence on the President was captured in a February cover of Time magazine with the headline “The Great Manipulator”.
By Friday night, Bannon was already back at the far-right Breitbart News, chairing an editorial meeting at the organisation he helped run before joining Trump’s campaign last year.
His departure comes just seven months after Trump took office and three weeks after retired General Kelly took over as Chief of Staff, looking to instil order in a chaotic White House beset by internal divisions, staff infighting and a storm of controversies.
Bannon was supposed to step down two weeks ago, a White House official told CNN, but it was put off.
The President’s initial plan was to fire Bannon and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at same time, the official said. But Representative Mark Meadows, the influential chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and others urged Trump to keep Bannon on board.
Bannon, an economic nationalist and former executive chairman of Breitbart News, once described the right-wing news outlet as a platform for the “alt-right”, a term that has become associated with white supremacy.
As chief strategist, he is believed to have pushed for Trump’s travel ban on refugees and citizens from several Muslim-majority countries and to have urged him to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, reports Efe news.
Trump praised Bannon personally when asked about him following the events in Charlottesville but also cast doubt on his future in the White House.
“I like him. He’s a good man. He’s not a racist … But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,” Trump said in a news conference on Tuesday.
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