Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist, has stepped down as executive chairman of Breitbart News in the latest fallout from an incendiary tell-all book about Donald Trump.
Mr Bannon incurred the wrath of the White House after he was quoted in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury questioning the president’s fitness for office and accusing Mr Trump’s son of treason for meeting a Russian lawyer during the election campaign.
His departure from the rightwing internet site he helped expand rounds off a fall from grace of one of the most influential figures behind Mr Trump’s 2016 election victory. Mr Bannon went on to have a dominant role in the early months of the Trump White House before quitting the administration last summer following John Kelly’s elevation to the position of chief of staff.
In a statement published on Breitbart, Mr Bannon said: “I’m proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform.” The company said it would work with Mr Bannon on a “smooth and orderly transition”.
The comments reported in Mr Wolff’s book, and the unflattering picture it paints of the president, precipitated a bitter public break-up between Mr Trump and Mr Bannon and pushed Rebekah Mercer, the conservative donor, to withdraw her financial backing of Mr Bannon.
Although Mr Bannon expressed regret for comments he made to the author about the president and his family, his public contrition failed to quell Mr Trump’s ire.
Mr Bannon now finds himself without the media platform from which he can project his nationalist agenda. Even before the publication of the book, his political judgment was being called into question following the humiliating defeat of Roy Moore, the anti-establishment contender he backed for the Alabama Senate race, at the hands of Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate.
Mr Bannon, whom the president has taken to calling “Sloppy Steve”, did not deny any of the comments in Fire and Fury, instead apologising for calling a campaign meeting between the president’s son, Donald Jr, and a Russian lawyer “treasonous”. His criticism had been aimed at Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager and a more “seasoned” official who attended the meeting but should have known better, he said in a statement this week.
Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said that while Mr Bannon’s downfall may thrill mainstream Republicans, the movement he has helped propel is far from defunct. Popular anger against establishment GOP politicians has not evaporated, and candidates aiming to dislodge them are likely to continue to emerge.
On Tuesday, for example, Joe Arpaio, the immigration hardliner and former sheriff of Maricopa county who was pardoned for criminal contempt by Mr Trump, announced he will be running in Arizona for the Senate.
“Bannon may have been the point of the spear, but that does not mean the spear has gone away,” said Mr Ornstein.
Adam Brandon, head of FreedomWorks, a conservative group with close ties to Republican lawmakers, predicted that Mr Bannon would not disappear from US politics. “When you heard him speak he was so animated, he had such passion and he had a vision. I don’t agree with his vision of populist economics, but he was one hell of a speaker, and when you have skills like that there is always an audience for you,” he said.
Noting that one of Mr Bannon’s signature concerns, economic competition with China, was unlikely to fade away, Mr Brandon said: “My guess is the final story on Steve Bannon has not been written.”
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