Carolyn Kaster / AP
A decision is imminent from White House chief of staff John Kelly on whether Steve Bannon will keep his job, according to administration officials with knowledge of the situation:
- Bannon, who has run afoul of Trump in the past, is now suspected by the president of leaking about his West Wing colleagues. And Trump resents the publicity Bannon has been getting as mastermind of the campaign.
- Many West Wing officials are now asking "when," not "if," Bannon goes.
- Chief of Staff General John Kelly has been reviewing Bannon's position.
- A recent deluge of media coverage of Bannon — including Bannon's explosive conversation with the American Prospect — have not escaped either the president's or Kelly's attention.
One White House source twists the knife: "His departure may seem turbulent in the media, but inside it will be very smooth. He has no projects or responsibilities to hand off."
Why Bannon might still survive:
- Trump often sends mixed signals about his personnel plans, and makes decisions — both to keep and dismiss people — on whim.
- Bannon, with his close connection to the president's base, is the one West Wing official who could do authentic damage to Trump on the outside.
- We're told that Bannon's friendship with the billionaire Mercer family, who has been an important Trump ally, is a factor in the president's decision and could be part of the strategist's survival package.
Bannon is unfazed, according to friends and confidants:
- That's readily apparent from his media appearances. He seems unburdened, giving on the record interviews to publications including the New York Times, where he's unapologetically defending Trump's controversial comments in the fallout from the racist carnage in Charlottesville.
- One senior White House official said it seemed like Bannon was setting himself up to be a martyr — the nationalist hero fired by the "globalists."
- He'd return to the outside world, a leader in the populist nationalist movement worldwide, with a partner in hedge fund billionaire Bob Mercer, who has deep pockets and would make Bannon even more of a force to be reckoned with on the outside. Plus he has the killing machine of Breitbart to return to.
Bannon has felt freed this past week and has told friends that he is ready to go "medieval" on enemies of Trump and his populist agenda both in and out of the White House.
- A source close to Bannon: "This week is a good window into what Bannon outside the [White House] would look like: A strong defense of POTUS and 'fire and fury' for enemies of The Trump agenda."
- "Get ready for Bannon the barbarian."