The Knives Are Out For Steve Bannon

White House insiders have renewed efforts to oust Presidential adviser Steve Bannon. Can they succeed?

Donald Trump Steve Bannon

In no small part because of the national outcry over the weekend’s events in Charlottesville and the President’s weak and inadequate response  from a political element that is deemed nearly universally to be a part of President Trump’s coalition, there are several reports out indicating that Presidential adviser Steve Bannon is under fire:

Two senior Trump advisers — one inside the White House and another who recently departed — signaled Sunday that the knives are out for Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s controversial chief strategist.

The comments come as a source inside the White House tells CNN that White House chief of staff John Kelly has soured on Bannon, a political operative with deep ties to the ‘alt-right’ and the former head of the conservative news site Breitbart.

Bannon is seen as pursuing his own agenda, which does not mesh with the power structure Kelly is putting in place, the source added.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster was asked three times by NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday whether he can work with Bannon in the White House. McMaster dodged the question each time and eventually left it an open question as to whether Bannon is motived by advancing the President’s agenda.

“Can you and Steve Bannon still work together,” Todd asked.

“I get to work together with a broad range of talented people,” McMaster said. “It’s a privilege every day to enable the national security team.”
Asked again, McMaster said, “I am ready to work with anybody who will help advance the President’s agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people.”

“Do you believe that Steve Bannon does that,” Todd asked.

“I believe that everyone in the White House … should be motivated by that goal,” he said.

The more blunt comments came from recently ousted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who told ABC that Trump needs to “move away” from Bannon and Breitbart.

“If the President really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people … then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense,” Scaramucci said, using a portmanteau of Bannon and Breitbart, the outlet Bannon once said was a “platform for the alt-right.”
Scaramucci, who was fired after a vulgar recording of him slamming Bannon was published by The New Yorker, would not say whether the President will fire Bannon, but did say that he spoke with Trump this week.

“I think the President knows what he’s going to do with Steve Bannon,” Scaramucci said. “It’s his decision. But I mean at the end of the day, I think the President has a very good idea of who the leakers are inside the White House. The President has a very good idea of the people that are undermining his agenda that are serving their own interests.”

A second source told CNN on Saturday that it’s not only Kelly and Bannon whose relationship is on the rocks, it is also Bannon and the President.
Bannon’s ouster has been rumored in the past, with tension in the White House spilling out in public on an almost weekly basis.

His job was on the line in April, according to a source close to the White House, after Trump grew frustrated with his inability to cooperate and work with others. The chilling came as Bannon fought with Jared Kushner, a top Trump aide and the President’s son-in-law.

“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump told the New York Post in April. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”

Trump added: “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”

Daily Beast reporter Aswain Suebsang reports that  the people who are eyeing to push Bannon out see newly installed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as an ally:

Steve Bannon’s enemies in the Trump administration are once again out for blood—and this time, they feel emboldened by newly installed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has called for an “end to the drama,” senior officials say.

Kelly, in his various conversations with other White House aides, has heard from at least three White House officials that “Bannon is a problem,” according to one Bannon colleague.

Some Trump officials have been quick to blame Bannon for ongoing tensions, which often stem from heated, vocal ideological disagreements between Bannon and his fellow Trump advisers. Those same officials are all-but-openly hoping that Kelly brings the axe down on Bannon in the coming weeks, if not sooner.

“[Kelly] has made it clear to everyone he… wants an end to the drama,” one senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast, describing Kelly’s desire for reining in Trump’s staff. Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not cleared to discuss internal matters.

Other officials are expecting, if not an outright sacking, an “effective demotion” of Bannon, as one senior White House official characterized it. Under such a scenario, the White House chief strategist’s portfolio would be reduced, though he’d remain inside the building. Multiple administration sources said that Kelly has been advised in the past week to have Bannon sever his working relationship with his own personal PR operation that functions outside the confines of the federal government.

As noted, this isn’t the first time that there have been rumors about Bannon being under fire and potentially in danger of losing influence inside the White House or even losing his job entirely. In addition to the tensions with Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner noted above, Bannon also feuded early in Trump’s tenure and often with former Chief of Staff Reince  Priebus over access to the President and policy. According to reports at the time, Bannon and Priebus were both told by the President to find a way to work out their differences and somehow they managed to do so, but at the time there were at least some rumors that the feud had become so severe that either man or both could have lost their job. Additionally, the past six months have brought with them much negative coverage of Bannon, his past comments and his ties to Breitbart News, and his comments on political issues as well as rumors that Bannon himself was one of the primary sources for the numerous leaks that, even under the tenure of General Kelly, continue to flow out of this White House to a far greater extent than we’ve seen with virtually any other previous Administration. In recent days, those rumors about Bannon being suspected of leaking have resurfaced, no doubt as part of the campaign that appears to be going on to influence the President regarding Bannon, with some reports even saying that Trump himself suspects Bannon of being one of the chief leakers in the White House.

Despite all of these reports, so far Bannon has managed to survive notwithstanding all of the criticism, and there’s very little evidence that his influence over the President has waned even under the new ‘tighter ship’ supposedly being presided over by new Chief of Staff John Kelly. It’s been suggested in the past that Trump could be reluctant to cut Bannon loose because he fears losing the support of elements of the conservative media that have been his biggest supporters since the start of his campaign, most especially Breitbart News and Fox News Channel. That support has become even more important as the President’s job approval continues to decline and issues ranging from North Korea to the Russia investigation continue to encircle the Administration and prevent it from achieving success on its signature issues. At the same time, though, the recent events in Virginia mean that Bannon’s ties to the so-called alt-right are likely to become a problem for Trump as much as they were when he signed on as a campaign adviser just about a year ago. The question, then, will become whether Trump has the courage to throw the man who helped start a website that he boasted had become the primary outlet for the alt-right overboard. My guess is that, utitmately he won’t. Bannon may llose some influence in a White House where John Kelly is Chief of Staff, but the odds are that he’ll survive.


FILED UNDER: Open Forum, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    The question, then, will become whether Trump has the courage…

    Let me clear…Trump has zero courage.
    The POTUS is a racist, pathetic, cowardly, little man.

  2. Hal_10000 says:

    The Knives Are Out For Steve Bannon

    Well … we know how much his type likes nights of long knives.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    There are two factions in the Trump White House: the criminals and the Nazis.

    Kushner, Manafort, Flynn, Ivanka and Fredo are the core of the criminal wing. They are all about covering up money-laundering, corruption and collusion with the Kremlin. The advice that comes from these people is all about cover-up: fire Comey, lie about Fredo’s meetings and Flynns meetings and Sessions’ meetings.

    Bannon, Miller and Gorka are the Nazis. Their advice is all about stirring hate in the base.

    In the middle is Trump himself, the leader of the Trump Crime Family who rose to power on the strength of white racism and cultural panic. I believe his top priority by far is covering up his and his family’s criminal activity. The Nazis are useful as a way of distracting from the stealing and the perjuring. Were he to expunge the Nazis he’d be exposed as nothing but a criminal.

  4. Hal_10000 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    I don’t know if Trump is racist. But I know that he thinks *we* are. A big reason why he is slow to denounce racist violence is because Bannon has persuaded him that the Alt-Right is some huge movement and he owes his election to them. It’s why he can’t bring himself to do the easiest thing in the world, which is to denounce Nazis. He’s convinced it would lose votes. In reality, these Alt-Righters are small (albeit very vocal) part of the electorate. They had a nation rally and only managed a few hundred deluded young men. You could lose every single one of their votes with no consequence whatsoever. But Trump is too dumb and cynical to realize that.

  5. Hal_10000 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think there is a third wing: guys like McMaster who are honestly trying to do a good job. But they are vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the other two wings.

  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Can I just say that I am really, really getting tired of these who-hates-who-in-the-WH? They all hate each other, with the exception of Jivanka and the Lesser Siblings who have their own already established dynamics to fall back on. They’re all gunning for each other, and it’s like playing whack-a-mole to determine who’s more hated than usual today.

    Bannon will be there until suddenly he’s not. If he goes, more than 3/4 of Trump’s favorable coverage goes with him. It would take something pretty huge, pardon me, YUGE, to force Trump to actually make a decision to get rid of him.

  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    I don’t know if Trump is racist.

    Of course he is. From housing discrimination, to embracing David Duke, to birtherism, to travel bans, to claims of reverse discrimination against whites. His failure to condemn white supremacy, this weekend, leaves no possible doubt.

  8. teve tory says:
  9. Kylopod says:


    I don’t know if Trump is racist.

    There’s pretty strong evidence that he is, going back decades. It’s true he didn’t start to make this a central part of his public persona until 2011 when he first launched his “birther” crusade, but it was there all along.

  10. Argon says:

    It would be stupid to keep Bannon. Therefore the President will keep him.

  11. Kylopod says:


    It would be stupid to keep Bannon. Therefore the President will keep him.

    That may be good snark, but we’ve already seen repeatedly that isn’t how the president operates. The basic pattern is that nothing is ever Trump’s fault, and therefore anytime anything goes wrong in his administration (which is about every week), he sacrifices one of his goats.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    Even if Bannon gets removed from the administration, Trump will keep him close. Bannon is literally one of the top alt-right guys. Trump is a white supremacist. Bannon is his guy. As is Miller and Gorka.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    Isn’t Bannon supported by the Mercers?

  14. teve tory says:

    from FB:

    “How is that racism?”
    “How is that racism?”
    “How is that racism?”
    “How is that racism?”
    “How is that racism?”
    “How is that racism?”
    “Good lord, where did these white supremacists come from?”

    -White people

  15. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t see McMaster as anything but an enabler. As for Kelly his inability to stop Trump from mouthing off over Korea and his inability to get Trump to respond to Charlottesville means he’s only very slightly more in charge than Priebus. I’m glad Mattis is at DoD but any time Trump wants to start a nuclear war he can just fire Mattis and work his way down the list till he finds someone compliant.

    McMaster, Kelly and Mattis are false reassurance for rational people, and as such are Trump enablers responsible for the crimes of this administration.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:


    I don’t know if Trump is racist.

    (takes a deep breath)…. Never mind, everybody else already said it. 😉

    @Not the IT Dept.: I’m not. Of course I’m a big fan of WWE wrestling.

    @michael reynolds:

    and as such are Trump enablers responsible for the crimes of this administration.

    I fear this is too true.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: Yes. Bannon is their creature. The mERCERS funded him and Breitbart.

    Republican politics has devolved to where each Republican prez candidate had his own billionaire boys club funder/owner. Even a candidate claiming to himself be A billionaire. The Mercers are Trumps. Mercer’s firm, Cambridge Analytica, provided big data services for Trump’s campaign, and for the Brexit campaign. There are murmurs data may have been shared with Russian actors.

    Trump may have to move Bannon out of a visible role, but he’s not losing the Mercers.

  18. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    You can’t make it up…Donnie comes out of hiding, two days later, to condemn racism…and at the same time says he is seriously considering a pardon for Ex-Sheriff Arpaio…who was convicted on criminal contempt of court for…wait for it…racial profiling.
    Kinda renders his condemnation as insincere, donchya think?
    Too little, too late.

  19. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    How many days it took to reach a 61% disapproval rate in the Gallup Poll
    Carter: Never
    Reagan: Never
    H.W. Bush: Never
    Clinton: Never
    W. Bush: 1,932
    Obama: Never
    Trump: 207

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:
  21. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:


    You could lose every single one of their votes with no consequence whatsoever.

    But if their votes had been lost from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the consequences might have been Yuuuuuuge.

  22. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:


    You could lose every single one of their votes with no consequence whatsoever.

    But if their votes had been lost from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the consequences might have been Yuuuuuuge.

  23. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: I guess I win the double post today. Yippee!

  24. Gustopher says:

    If he fires Bannon, he will just replace him with a second rate racist alt-right conspiracy theorist. The scum is part of his base and he knows it.

  25. Franklin says:

    @teve tory: They’re not racist, they’re just “preserving their heritage” (TM).
    They don’t hate black people, in fact they own several.

  26. Kylopod says:


    They don’t hate black people, in fact they own several.

    In 2009 there was a news story about a Louisiana judge who refused to grant a marriage license to an interracial couple, and he was quoted as protesting that he wasn’t a racist because he allowed black people into his homes to use his bathroom. He seemed in dead earnest when he said this. In the commenting section of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog where I used to hang out, this became a running joke from then on: anytime there was a bigot who didn’t recognize that he was a bigot, we would say “He lets them use his bathroom.”

  27. teve tory says:
  28. de stijl says:


    This will not be the night of long knives, this will be the early evening of the blunted kindergarten art scissors.

    Don’t run!

  29. de stijl says:



    Trump is a narcissist.

    Trump cannot accept blame.

    If Bannon or Gorka, Miller, et al have to go for him to dodge blame, they will be sacrificifed.

    Trump is not anything in regards to policy or ideology. His only allegiance is to Trump. That which serves his interest is good; that which thwarts him Is bad.

    He is as alt-right to the extent that it matches what his id desires.

    If there is any underlying allegiance at all, it is against those Manhattan gate-keepers that rejected his figurative application to “the club.”

  30. @Kylopod: A guy that licensed Trump’s name to build a hotel in Rio said to local media that Trump was not a racist because he all his maids are Hispanic.

  31. de stijl says:

    Trump is pro-Trump. And Trump is anti-people who are anti-Trump.

    It’s really just that simple.

  32. Barry says:

    @Hal_10000: “I think there is a third wing: guys like McMaster who are honestly trying to do a good job. But they are vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the other two wings.”

    Anybody at high level in this administration is evil and criminal until proven – not otherwise, but proven evil and criminal.

  33. de stijl says:


    Your enthusiasm is noted.

    I’d prefer proof of malfeasance before going, you know, full-on “evil.” It’s a bit extreme.

  34. al-Alameda says:


    I don’t know if Trump is racist. But I know that he thinks *we* are.

    It is not at all unreasonable to infer from the public record that Trump is racist, he has an extensive record, over the past 30-plus years that points to it. A couple of examples, over 20 years apart speak to this.

    (1) On the basis of his leading role in the Birther Movement alone I would say that he’s racist. Some argue that point saying that it was not at all clear that Obama born in America, but that’s just fig-leaf-dog-whistle fodder designed to give cover to those who want to avoid an accusation of being racist.

    (2) or in 1991, from Fortune, as excerpted from John O’Donnell’s book:

    “Next in the Trump record on race came a 1991 book by John O’Donnell, who had been president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. O’Donnell quoted Trump saying,“ Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes… Those are the only kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else…Besides that, I tell you something else. I think that’s guy’s lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks.”

    Lovely, and he gave us a twofer there also – timeless sterotyping of Jews coupled with the pro-forma boilerplate racist sterotying of Blacks.

    Now, to some, those examples might seem ‘cosmopolitan’ compared with the racism of the guys who showed up in Charlottesville on Saturday, or the guys who clubbed civil right’s marchers in Selma back in 1963, however I think it points to a personal history of retrograde racist views.

  35. Kylopod says:

    I just happened to be looking at some old Daily Shows, and I came upon the incident where Dr. Laura used the N-word on radio while talking to a black caller. One of the aspects of the controversy I forgot about until now was that she was quick to add she couldn’t be a racist because her bodyguard was black. No really, she actually said that.

  36. Franklin says:

    @Kylopod: Just wow.

  37. Franklin says:

    @Kylopod: My bodyguard is black. Classic. I think that’s one of the things Axl Rose said during the controversy over “One in a Million”.

  38. Kylopod says:


    I think that’s one of the things Axl Rose said during the controversy over “One in a Million”.

    Well in that case he had a slightly more impressive excuse: his own musical partner was black (though according to reports it contributed to their breakup). I thought the funniest excuse he gave during the controversy was citing John and Yoko’s “Woman is the N**** of the World.” You can’t make this up.