Stephen Bannon, President Trump's chief strategist, apparently had a rough day at the office on Wednesday. The night before, Trump had told the New York Post, "I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late," and before that, "I didn't know Steve." (They met in 2011.) "I'm my own strategist," he added, a phrase he repeated to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, when he also called Bannon "a guy who works for me." Some of Bannon's associates characterized Trump's public dressing-down as a paternal "love tap," The Washington Post reports, while others fear it was "an indirect firing."
Bannon "is a marked man — diminished by weeks of battles with the bloc of centrists led by Trump's daughter and son-in-law and cut down by the president himself," The Washington Post said, basing its assessment on "interviews Wednesday with 21 of Trump's aides, confidants, and allies." One Bannon friend likened him to "a terminally ill family member who had been moved into hospice care," the Post said, while others suggested Bannon might survive for a little longer.
"Bannon is a brilliant pirate who has had a huge impact," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "But White Houses, in the end, are like the U.S. Navy — corporate structures and very hard on pirates." A "person with firsthand knowledge of internal White House dynamics" told The New York Times that while no change is imminent, Trump's comments and Bannon's recent demotions have made it very hard for the chief strategist to keep his job and his stature.
Not every Trump insider is numbering Bannon's days. Thomas Barrack Jr., a close Trump friend and business associate, spent Tuesday and Wednesday meeting with Trump and his senior team in Washington. He told CNN's Erin Burnett Wednesday night that things have never been better at the Trump White House and Bannon isn't going anywhere.
Still, Bannon's supporters are watching the situation warily, including his main political patron, Rebekah Mercer, who views Bannon as her main conduit to Trump. Mercer is reportedly already looking for opportunities for Bannon should he leave the White House early, but her family's ties to Bannon are one of the things that might keep him employed at the White House. "While the president has grown weary of directives from donors like the Mercers," The New York Times reports, "he is mindful that they are among his major financial backers, and he is said to be conscious of the need to keep it that way."