Steve Bannon has returned to his role as the executive chairman of Breitbart News, within hours of his departure from his role as President Donald Trump’s chief advisor. According to multiple sources and statements from Bannon himself, the far-right publication now seems poised to become more critical of a president whose candidacy it vigorously supported before.
But a source close to Bannon told the Wall Street Journal that Breitbart was ready to be critical of Trump “if he veers away from the agenda they are pushing for.” Another source told Axios’ Jonathan Swan that Bannon would go “thermonuclear” against “globalists” within the Trump administration – that is, those who don’t hew to protective trade and immigration policies.
Bannon himself sent his own strong signals, telling the Weekly Standard that “the Trump Presidency that we fought for, and won, is over. We still have a huge movement,” Bannon continued, “and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over.”
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Joel Pollak, a Breitbart editor, put the situation even more bluntly, tweeting “#WAR” just after Bannon’s departure, and publishing an editorial last night predicting that, without Bannon, Trump could abandon the nationalist trade and immigration stances that attracted many of Trump’s supporters during the campaign.
Bannon’s departure is indeed likely to be an ideological turning point for the Trump administration. Bannon, through Breitbart, was a key connection between Trump and the so-called “alt-right,” a term coined by white nationalist Richard Spencer to re-brand race-conscious right-wing politics. Bannon’s departure came in the wake of a deadly white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville last weekend, which seemed to focus U.S. opposition to white nationalism — particularly after President Trump failed to repudiate the various racist factions whose rally left one counterprotestor and two police officers dead.
Bannon’s departure leaves more power in the hands of more moderate forces within the administration, including new Chief of Staff John Kelly, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner. That could return Breitbart, with Bannon at the helm, to its role as a far-right gadfly — and perhaps finally alienate the base that has stuck with Trump through his troubled Presidency.