Bannon's exit not seen to signal Trump
shift to center
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[August 21, 2017]
By John Walcott and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON/BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (Reuters) -
President Donald Trump's ouster of chief strategist Steve Bannon is
unlikely to mark the abandonment of the administration's "America First"
agenda that has unnerved investors and trade partners and split the
White House into nationalist and globalist camps.
Within hours of leaving Trump's administration on Friday, Bannon was
back at the helm of Breitbart News, the hard-right news site he ran
before becoming the main architect of Trump's 2016 presidential
Bannon can now do more to further conservative causes because "he can
speak his mind" without the constraints of working in the White House,
Rick Weatherly, 61, a maintenance technician from the Denver suburb of
Lakewood, said on Saturday.
Trump appeared to agree, tweeting: "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, was instrumental in some of Trump's most contentious
policies including the travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority
nations, departure from the Paris climate accord and rejection of the
Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
He was no friend to the Republican political establishment and was
loathed by liberals, but became a darling of some of the president's
hard-line conservative supporters.
"Trump will now have a great external ally," a source close to Bannon
said on condition of anonymity. "He will use his big hammer against the
congressional leadership in support of the president's agenda."
Trump supporters in south Florida, Chicago and Colorado told Reuters
that they were not concerned that Bannon's departure meant the president
was distancing himself from policies he supported during last year's
"I think Trump will be fine," said Bob Janda, a 67-year-old small
business owner in Chicago.
Nor is Bannon likely to be distanced from Trump's ear, a White House
official said on condition of anonymity.
Bannon joined a string of senior officials who have left the Trump
administration in the past five weeks, leading to the appointment of
retired Marine general John Kelly as the new White House chief of staff.
Kelly has succeeded in imposing some order on what had been a haphazard
operation, but Bannon will still have "a direct pipeline into the Oval
Office with Breitbart, Twitter and the TV," the same White House
"My guess is he'll (Bannon) probably be more effective goading the
president from outside, especially if the president feels boxed in by
John Kelly's clean lines of authority and (national security adviser
H.R.) McMaster's orderly processes," said Kori Schake, a research fellow
at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who previously served in the
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President Donald Trump talks to chief strategist Steve Bannon during
a swearing in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in
Washington, U.S. January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/FILE PHOTO
"Seems to me that Bannon was symptom not cause: The president seems
to share his dark vision, revel in the support of people Bannon
represents," Schake added.
Prior to joining the Trump campaign, Bannon had spearheaded
Breitbart's shift into a forum for the "alt-right," a loose online
confederation of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.
His departure capped a tumultuous week in which Trump was widely
criticized for saying both sides were responsible for last weekend's
violence at a Charlottesville, Virginia rally organized by neo-Nazis
and white supremacists.
Bannon told the conservative Weekly Standard on Friday that he would
use Breitbart to attack opponents of the populist and nationalist
agenda he championed, including establishment Republicans.
At the same time he appeared to suggest that his departure signaled
a major shift for the Trump agenda. "The Trump presidency that we
fought for, and won, is over," Bannon said.
Defense policy is one area where Bannon could play a role from the
While many of Trump's national security aides favor sending several
thousand more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgents
have been regaining ground, Bannon argued for withdrawing the 8,400
U.S. personnel still there.
He also had advocated restraint in dealing with North Korea,
rejecting the use of military force to solve the recent crisis.
"There is a danger that if he continues to bang away on issues that
appeal to Breitbart's audience but aren't going anywhere, Bannon
risks splitting the administration's loose coalition of hard-right
ideologues, traditional conservatives, and middle-of-the-road voters
who didn't like Hillary Clinton," another Trump administration
official said, also on condition of anonymity.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay and James Oliphant in
Washington, Robert Chiarito in Chicago, and Keith Coffman in Denver;
Writing by Amanda Becker; Editing by Paul Simao)
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