As with many senior advisers of President Donald Trump, leaks about Steve Bannon's impending firing were in the news for months. More recently, several outlets reported that Trump had been reluctant to remove his nationalist adviser from his post because he was afraid of what Bannon and his allies might do in retaliation.
“The president obviously is very nervous and afraid of firing him,” a White House insider told Reuters earlier this week. As Trump’s popularity tanks, he could be hesitant to alienate his hard-right base by firing one of their own.
Conservative groups are not taking the forced departure of Trump's White House chief strategist lightly. After the news was broken by conservative powerhouse Matt Drudge on Friday, many on the right reacted angrily.
Bannon's ouster was not on "friendly" terms, according to CBS reporter Margaret Brennan:
Before Bannon was ousted, many conservatives issued public and private warnings that they would be displeased with such an outcome. As the Washington Times reported, a large group of conservative organizations issued a letter urging the White House to keep Bannon, along with fellow White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.
When the word broke on Friday, many Trump fans took to Twitter to blast the decision. Senior Breitbart editor Joel Pollack was among them, declaring "war" and saying that the president was on the path to becoming a liberal now.
After departing the White House, Bannon returned to Breitbart, the publication he ran before formally joining up with Trump in 2016. Once safely ensconced within his old haunts, he may pursue a feud against Drudge, his one-time ally, according to a Buzzfeed report:
Sources who have spoken to Bannon say the nationalist firebrand is expected to return to his old news site Breitbart. And one person close to Bannon says he has his eye on who he believes helped accelerate his ouster: Matt Drudge.
"Matt Drudge worked to remove Steve Bannon, that is the reality," said former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg, who regularly talks with Bannon. "And I hope Matt is happy because his work helped Bannon not be in the West Wing, but it helped Democrats and people that didn’t vote for Trump be in the West Wing."
Nunberg is specifically frustrated with the continued presence and influence of chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, National Security Adviser HR McMaster, and the duo he derisively calls Javanka, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Bannon has openly feuded with Cohn, and Breitbart has for weeks been waging a battle against McMaster.
Kushner developed a relationship with Drudge dating back to the campaign, and Bannon allies also blame the son-in-law for his ouster. People close to Bannon say Bannon privately hoped Kushner would "go down" over the intensifying Russia investigation.
Later in the evening, Breitbart News reporter Charlie Spiering confirmed that Bannon had returned to his former publication.
Also late Friday, the Weekly Standard (a conservative publication which has long opposed Trump) published an article based on interview with Bannon in which he detailed his post-White House plans:
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.” ...
It is plainly Bannon’s view that his departure is not a defeat for him personally, but for the ideology he’d urged upon the president, as reflected in Trump’s provocative inaugural address—in which he spoke of self-dealing Washington politicians, and their policies that led to the shuttered factories and broken lives of what he called “American carnage.” Bannon co-authored that speech (and privately complained that it had been toned down by West Wing moderates like Ivanka and Jared).
And, he says, Trump encouraged him to take on the Republican establishment. “I said, ‘look, I’ll focus on going after the establishment.’ He said, ‘good, I need that.’ I said, ‘look, I’ll always be here covering for you.’”
This story has been updated to reflect additional details since its publication.