Ousted from the White House, Stephen Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist and architect of his winning campaign strategy, told The Weekly Standard that the Trump presidency — at least the presidency he helped create — is over.
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”
Bannon says that he will return to the helm of Breitbart, the rambunctious right-wing media enterprise he ran until joining the Trump campaign as chief executive last August. At the time, the campaign was at its nadir, and Trump was trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls by double digits.
Although his influence with the president waxed and waned, Bannon’s standing in the Trump circle was always precarious. Among the senior advisors competing with Bannon in trying to shape Trump’s agenda, and his tone, were the president’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared. Bannon pointedly voiced criticism of those in the president’s sphere whom he considered to be globalists, or liberals (or both), and the president himself plainly bristled over the early attention that Bannon got from the press (including a Time magazine cover, which is said to have particularly irked Trump).
Bannon says that his departure was voluntary, and that he’d planned it to coincide with the one-year anniversary of his joining the Trump campaign as chief executive, on August 14, 2016.
“On August 7th , I talked to [Chief of Staff John] Kelly and to the President, and I told them that my resignation would be effective the following Monday, on the 14th,” he said. “I’d always planned on spending one year. General Kelly has brought in a great new system, but I said it would be best. I want to get back to Breitbart.”
Bannon says that with the tumult in Charlottesville last weekend, and the political fallout since, Trump, Kelly, and he agreed to delay Bannon’s departure, but that he and Kelly agreed late this week that now was the time for Bannon to leave.
Bannon pulled no punches in his interview with the Standard, blaming “establishment Republicans” and “West Wing Democrats.”
Bannon assigns blame for the thwarting of his program on “the West Wing Democrats,” but holds special disdain for the Washington establishment—especially those Republicans who have, he believes, willfully failed to provide Trump with meaningful victories.
And, he believes, things are about to get worse for Trump. “There’s about to be a jailbreak of these moderate guys on the Hill”—a stream of Republican dissent, which could become a flood.
Bannon says that he once confidently believed in the prospect of success for that version of the Trump presidency he now says is over. Asked what the turning point was, he says, “It’s the Republican establishment. The Republican establishment has no interest in Trump’s success on this. They’re not populists, they’re not nationalists, they had no interest in his program. Zero. It was a half-hearted attempt at Obamacare reform, it was no interest really on the infrastructure, they’ll do a very standard Republican version of taxes.
Bannon shares a profound ignorance of governance with his former boss. Can anyone tell us what Trump’s governing philosophy is? Neither Trump nor Bannon respects the institutions of government — the traditions, the exercise of presidential power, the cooperation with Congress to get things done. Trump is failing because he literally has no clue how to govern the United States of America. And Bannon didn’t help.
Thankfully, Bannon will do a lot less damage at Breitbart.