Bannon was set for a graceful exit. Then came Charlottesville

The New York Times reports: John F. Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, told Stephen K. Bannon in late July that he needed to go: No need for it to get messy, Mr. Kelly told Mr. Bannon, according to several people with firsthand knowledge of the exchange. The two worked out a mutually amicable departure date for mid-August, with President Trump’s blessing.

But as Mr. Trump struggled last week to contain a growing public furor over his response to a deadly, race-fueled melee in Virginia, Mr. Bannon clashed with Mr. Kelly over how the president should respond. Give no ground to your critics, Mr. Bannon urged the president, with characteristic truculence.

At the same time, New York real estate investor friends told Mr. Trump that the situation with Mr. Bannon was untenable: Steve Roth on Monday, Tom Barrack on Tuesday and Richard LeFrak on Wednesday.

By Thursday, after Mr. Bannon undercut American policy toward North Korea in an interview published by a left-leaning magazine, Mr. Trump himself had concluded that Mr. Bannon was too much of a liability.

By Friday, when he was forced from his job as Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Mr. Bannon had found himself wholly isolated inside a White House where he once operated with such autonomy that he reported only to the president himself.

This account is based on interviews with a dozen White House aides, associates of the president’s and friends of Mr. Bannon’s.

A former Naval officer, Mr. Bannon speaks often in the language of combat — of escalating conflict to “nuclear” levels and driving his enemies “ballistic.” But in the end, he had lost the war against a list of enemies that included nearly everyone in the West Wing. They included not just the adversaries whose conflicts with Mr. Bannon were widely aired — Gary D. Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser; Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter; and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.

Also against him was Mr. Kelly, who was outraged by the indiscretion Mr. Bannon displayed in the interview with The American Prospect, according to three senior administration officials. And Mr. Bannon could no longer turn to Mr. Trump, whose confidence in him had eroded over a period of months, to ask for a reprieve.

Even the market tumbled on the prospect that Mr. Bannon could come out on top. Blue chip stocks slid last week after an erroneous report said that Mr. Cohn’s resignation was imminent because of his disgust with Mr. Trump’s failure to more forcefully denounce the racist Charlottesville, Va., demonstrators. Friends and former colleagues of Mr. Cohn’s said the economic adviser criticized Mr. Trump in such strong terms that at least one wondered how he could possibly remain in his position. [Continue reading…]

“People make too much of the idea that [Trump’s] some kind of blank slate that advisers can push one way or the other,” says Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union. Indeed. The only pushing evident is that occasionally Trump’s persuaded to read someone else’s words from a teleprompter. Otherwise, every vile statement that comes out of his mouth is authentic Trump. His ugliness is completely genuine.

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