Bannon leaves White House, vows to fight on for Trump

Friday, August 18, 2017

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – Donald Trump parted ways with his controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon on Friday as the White House reels from the fallout over the president's response to a violent white supremacist rally.

But the 63-year-old Bannon -- a hero of the so-called "alt right" but bete noire of centrists whose departure caps one of the most disastrous weeks of the young presidency -- vowed to keep fighting for Trump's agenda from outside the White House.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Bannon made clear he remained fully committed to the nationalist-populist policies that carried Trump to power.

"If there's any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I'm leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents -- on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America," said the far-right firebrand.

Within hours of his departure, Breitbart News -- the provocative right-wing outlet which Bannon headed before joining Trump's team -- announced he had returned to his former home, as executive chairman.

"The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today," declared Breitbart News editor-in-chief Alex Marlow.

Bannon's presence at the White House had been contested from the start and with Trump under fire for insisting anti-racism protesters were equally to blame for violence at a weekend rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president faced renewed pressure to let him go.

Trump, who rose to political prominence by casting doubt on whether Barack Obama, America's first black president, was born in the United States, did condemn neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan on several occasions this week but many across the political spectrum say he did not go far enough.

Trump was at meetings with his national security advisers at the presidential retreat Camp David to discuss the situation in Afghanistan when the White House announced Bannon's departure.

The White House did not specify whether he had resigned or -- as was widely reported -- been forced out.

"White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day," spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. "We are grateful for his service and wish him the best."

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