President Trump is afraid of his senior adviser Steve Bannon and is scared to fire him, for fear of losing ground with his white-nationalist base, reports say.
With the arrival of Gen. John Kelly as Trump's chief of staff, it was rumored that Bannon would be removed. Rupert Murdoch of Fox News has repeatedly advised Trump to dump Bannon. Moderate Republicans are urging the same. And Bannon started the week looking like a goner. A Tuesday report by CBS News, citing high-placed White House sources, claimed he could be fired as soon as the end of this week.
But Trump has hesitated.
“The president obviously is very nervous and afraid of firing him,” a White House insider told Reuters. Bannon, former executive chairman of the far-right Breitbart News, was instrumental in getting Trump elected by bringing the site's significant audience of white nationalists aboard. As the president's overall approval rating drops, he's reticent to alienate his base of hard-right supporters.
Reuters reports that Bannon has become embroiled in a feud with national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who has accused Bannon of planting negative stories about him in Breitbart.
That, the racially motivated killing in Charlottesville, and the president's calamitous reaction to it, does not make Bannon's job security any easier to read. The president could fire him to answer allegations that white nationalism has taken hold in the Oval Office, or — as Monday's press conference showed — he could double down.
What is clear is that Gen. Kelly's arrival has not gone according to plan. Instead of instilling discipline in the president, Kelly has seen the most chaotic and damaging week of Trump's term, from his aggression toward North Korea to the disastrous press conference about Charlottesville, in which Trump claimed a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and the anti-racism protesters who opposed them.