Steve Bannon, senior strategist to President Donald Trump, is leaving the administration, agreeing with Trump's chief of staff that Friday would be his last day in the role, the White House announced. Bannon also returned to his previous post as Executive Chairman of Breitbart News.
His departure comes in the wake of the deadly violence at a Virginia white nationalist rally and after reports that his position was precarious amid tensions with other members of the Trump administration. Bannon is the latest top adviser to leave the White House, following Trump's first national security adviser, chief of staff and press secretary, along with two directors of communications.
"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," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Friday.
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Bannon returned to the right-wing publication Breibart Friday afternoon and chaired the company’s evening editorial meeting, Breitbart reported.
Early Saturday, Trump tweeted: "I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton - it was great! Thanks S"
He tweeted hours later, "Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews...maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!"
Bannon, 63, the former head of the conservative Breitbart News, has been seen as a link between Trump and his conservative, populist base, but he has been fiercely criticized for his nationalist beliefs.
Trump hinted earlier this week that Bannon's future at the White House was under consideration.
"I like him, he's a good man," Trump said Tuesday at a news conference. "He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person. He actually gets very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon."
Trump and the White House had come under fire since Trump's remarks about the white nationalist rally at Charlottesville, saying at the same news conference that "both sides" were to blame for the violence. That position was condemned by some members of his own party, including Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, typically an ally of the White House.
The president "has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful," Corker said after an event in his home state Thursday.
Bannon's departure also comes days after two Trump business advisory panels imploded, with executives at some of the nation's biggest companies issuing statements, some of which mentioned the president, about the value of standing up to hatred and bigotry. And Friday, virtually all of the members of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities announced their resignations, while Mitt Romney warned that Trump risked "an unraveling of our national fabric."
After rising to become chief executive of Trump’s presidential campaign, Bannon reportedly co-wrote Trump's inaugural address with senior adviser Stephen Miller, which spoke of the "American carnage" that Trump's administration would rectify.
In February, he told a conservative conference in Washington of "our sovereignty" as a country and about the new administration's aim for "deconstruction of the administrative state."
Bannon has been said to have feuded with Trump's son-in-law-turned-senior-adviser Jared Kushner and with chief economics adviser Gary Cohn, among others.
Earlier this year, Trump seemed irritated when Bannon appeared on Time magazine's cover and was portrayed on "Saturday Night Live" as the Grim Reaper, pulling the president's strings.
"I am my own strategist," Trump said in April.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement saying Steve Bannon's departure is "welcome news, but it doesn’t disguise where President Trump himself stands on white supremacists and the bigoted beliefs they advance."
"Personnel changes are worthless so long as President Trump continues to advance policies that disgrace our cherished American values," Pelosi said.
Not everyone rejoices in Bannon's exit. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of Bannon's biggest backers in Washington, defended the former White House Chief Strategist, NBC News reported.
King described Bannon's firing as a "hard blow landed against conservatives." He lamented, saying Trump "needed more conservatives in the West Wing, not less."
Long before he took a role advising Trump, the Virginia native was an investment banker for Goldman Sachs. In 1990, he started his own investment banking company, Bannon & Co., which financed stakes in media and entertainment, including the hit sitcom "Seinfeld." He is listed with 18 film production credits on IMDB.
All the while, Bannon vocalized right-wing ideologies. In a 2007 outline of one of his films, he said that the press, various branches of government and the ACLU were "enablers" of an Islamic state in America, the Washington Post reported. Breitbart News, which Bannon co-founded, has published highly controversial material. He has called the site "the platform for the alt-right," an extreme branch of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism.
Bannon is reviled by many for his role in developing Breitbart, which he stepped aside from to work for the Trump campaign. Critics call the site racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic.
Bannon has denied that he is a white nationalist, calling himself an "economic nationalist" with visions of building an "entirely new political movement." But he seemed to court revulsion from liberals and others opposed to him.
"Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power," Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter after being tapped as chief strategist.
In a 2007 court filing, Bannon's ex-wife claimed he made anti-Semitic comments when the couple fought over which private school to send their daughters to nearly a decade ago, NBC News reported last year.
The revelation followed news of a police report in which the ex-wife claimed Bannon attacked her 20 years ago. Bannon was charged with three misdemeanor domestic violence-related charges and pleaded not guilty. The charges were dismissed six months later after prosecutors said they could not find his wife.
David Bossie, who was deputy campaign manager, told The Associated Press after Trump took office that he introduced Trump and Bannon in 2011 at Trump Tower and they grew to know each well, as Trump appeared multiple times on Bannon's Breitbart radio show. Bannon interviewed Trump at least nine times in 2015 and 2016 and members of his family and campaign on many other occasions.
"They believe in each other's agendas, which is why they have grown so close," Bossie previously said.
In naming Bannon as his senior strategist, Trump called him a “highly qualified leader."
But Bannon's controversial past led some members of Congress from both parties to call for his appointment to be rescinded.
After the violence at the Charlottesville white nationalist rally that included the death of a counter-protester, Trump was criticized for waiting two days before specifically condemning members of white hate groups.
Two days later, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who was ousted after disparaging Bannon and former chief of staff Reince Priebus during a vulgar rant with a reporter, said on Stephen Colbert's "Late Show" that if "it was up to me" Bannon would be gone from the administration.
On Aug. 15, the leaders of four minority House caucus groups wrote a letter to Trump calling for the removal of Bannon and two other White House aides associated with the far-right, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.
The letter from the heads of the black, Hispanic, Asian and progressive caucuses asserted that their continuing presence in the White House is emboldening a resurgent white supremacist movement in America.
"Americans deserve to know that white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis are not in a position to influence U.S. policy," the letter said. "In this time of tumult in our country, Americans deserve a leader that will bring us all together and denounce those who seek to tear us apart."