How Bannon turned on Trump … and where the nationalist right goes next

The ex-White House strategist who turned his fire and fury on the president is now out at Breitbart too. Those in the know, though, say he isn’t finished yet

By David Smith and Ben Jacobs in Washington | The Guardian | January 13, 2018

Asnow shower had left Washington speckled in white. Steve Bannon, known for his shabby dress code, entered the five-star Hay-Adams hotel, a short walk from the White House, and delivered a speech to what one observer later dismissively called “swamp denizens”.




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Despite a recent falling out that made headlines around the world, the former White House chief strategist repeatedly praised Donald Trump and spoke of “the everyman” in America who believes “the world is stacked against them”. He received a warm response and engaged in a back-and-forth with questioners. He did not act like a man on political death row.

But soon on that frigid Tuesday afternoon, it would be announced that Bannon was on his way out of Breitbart News, which he once called the platform for the so-called alt-right, a group including neo-Nazis, white supremacists and antisemites that espouses tougher immigration laws and trade deals. It was the final blow after a head-spinning week. He had been excommunicated by the president, the White House, his billionaire patron and now his own company.

“The guy loves history,” the website Axios noted. “Well, this political suicide is historic. Bannon still thinks of himself as a revolutionary. That self-perception won’t change. It’s just that now he has no vehicle, no staff, no platform, and no major donors funding his ambitions.”

A giant of the populist base that helped propel Trump to victory has been toppled, raising questions about the movement he left behind. Is the alt-right leaderless and destined for irrelevance? Is it a “movement” at all? Has the establishment all but won the Republican civil war?

By the week’s end, one thing was certain. Trump, meeting senators to discuss immigration, reportedly asked in reference to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” It confirmed every suspicion and every fear about where his instincts lie. Bannon may be gone but the biggest nativist of all is still in the Oval Office.

‘Mr Bannon has shot himself in the foot’

It was a year ago that Trump succeeded Barack Obama as president. His inaugural address went down in the first draft of history for two phrases: “America First” and “American carnage”. Both were reportedly the work of Bannon and Stephen Miller, who is still White House senior policy adviser.

Having led the Trump campaign in its final months, and kept faith in the candidate when others were ready desert him, Bannon seemed an all-powerful consigliere. Soon he was adorning magazine covers and there were whispers of “President Bannon”. He had, it transpired, flown too close to the sun; he was ousted from the National Security Council and marginalised. By August, having lost a power struggle with Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, he was out.


Copies of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House are seen at the Book Culture book store in New York.

Copies of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House are seen at the Book Culture book store in New York.  Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuter


Far from humbled, Bannon returned to Breitbart as executive chairman and became more politically active. He declared war on the Republican establishment and made stump speeches on behalf of Christian fundamentalist Roy Moore. The plan backfired when Moore, facing allegations of sexual misconduct with girls and women, lost one of the safest Republican seats in the country.

Then came Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, which quoted Bannon at length lambasting Trump and his family – he called Donald Trump Jr’s decision to meet Russians during the election campaign “treasonous”. Bannon claimed he had been referring to then campaign manager Paul Manafort, but Trum