President Donald Trump has fired chief strategist Steve Bannon, the man who helped get him elected, the White House announced on Friday.
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"White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "We are grateful for his service and wish him the best."
The announcement ended the turbulent tenure of a rabble-rousing conservative media entrepreneur and political activist who was a darling of Trump's base.
Over the past few months, Bannon has clashed with a number of the president's top advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser HR McMaster. In recent weeks it was reported that Trump had begun to suspect that Bannon was "a leaker," and that he was responsible for damaging stories against other White House officials that appeared in the press.
A source familiar with the decision, which had been under consideration for a while, told Reuters that Bannon had been given an opportunity to depart on his own terms. "The president made up his mind on it over the past couple of weeks," the source said.
Kelly had been evaluating Bannon's role within the White House. "They gave him an opportunity to step down knowing that he was going to be forced to," the source said.
He had told friends he could go back to the right-wing Breitbart News outlet, which he had headed before he took over as chief of Trump's presidential campaign in August 2016.
On Wednesday, Bannon went off-script in an interview with American Prospect magazine, calling the far-right a “collection of clowns” and directly contradicting Trump on his North Korea strategy, saying "they got us" and "there is no military solution."
Bannon also said the Democrats are destroying themselves with their focus on identity politics: "If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats,” he said.
Bannon insisted that the United States is in an "economic war with China" and warned Washington is losing the fight, but that it is about to hit China hard over unfair trade practices.
According to Axios’s Jonathan Swan, Bannon did not realize that he had agreed to an interview: “Apparently Bannon never thought that the journalist might take his (very newsworthy) comments and turn them into a story.