- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2017

With Stephen K. Bannon ousted from his White House role as the intellectual core of the Trump movement, conservatives worry whether the president can find a new adviser capable of filling the void to guide Mr. Trump’s populist views into action.

Mr. Bannon’s ouster on Friday as White House chief strategist was “extremely disappointing” to conservatives, said Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government.

“I don’t think there’s anybody else who has the same touchstone with the president’s core values as Steve Bannon did,” Mr. Manning said. “That’s why it’s particularly distressing that Bannon’s not going to be there anymore.”

At the center of internal feuds with more moderate West Wing advisers such as presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and economic director Gary Cohn, Mr. Bannon was considered the driving force on issues ranging from immigration to tougher trade action against China. Insiders say the friction led to Mr. Bannon’s departure as new Chief of Staff John F. Kelly moved to restore order and lessen the drama around the Oval Office.

“The way he was operating within the White House was undermining the president,” said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “You can’t have somebody like that within the White House.”

One White House official said Mr. Bannon’s viewpoint “is still represented” in the West Wing, although there is no longer the same kind of firebrand figure among the president’s top advisers to lead the charge for Mr. Trump’s brand of economic nationalism.

A senior administration official also told the Los Angeles Times Sunday that Sebastian Gorka, a former counterterrorism analyst for Fox News who joined the administration as a counterterrorism adviser, will be leaving the White House in the coming days. He was an ally of Mr. Bannon.

Mr. Bannon’s cause also was hurt by the very public credit he received as the architect of Mr. Trump’s victory last November, praise that rubbed the president the wrong way. As the subject of constant press coverage and a new book, Mr. Bannon often drew the president’s ire for getting too much credit, a dynamic that dated back at least as far as February, when Mr. Bannon was featured on the cover of Time magazine.

“There was a feeling that he ‘jumped the shark’ with the Time magazine cover photo,” said a White House official, using a Hollywood reference about an event that appears too far-fetched.

Former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie said Mr. Trump “is his own agenda setter.”

“He has been his own strategist for many, many years. And he lets everybody know that,” Mr. Bossie said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Don’t get me wrong, Steve Bannon was an integral part of the White House, but this president understands how he got elected. He is the one who formulated really the agenda and the issues that we really ran on. We help the president. It was the president’s ideas. It has always been the president’s agenda, 100 percent. For years and years he’s been talking about these issues.”

Returning to his post Friday as the head of Breitbart News, Mr. Bannon told Bloomberg that he is “going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, said on Sunday’s “Fox & Friends” that Breitbart News is going to be “very activist.”

“Knowing Steve from years ago when Andrew Breitbart introduced us, you’re just going to see a guy driven,” Mr. Gohmert said. “He has seen what President Trump has promised, he has seen that Congress has not come through for him, so he’s going to be driven to see that happens.”

Said a Republican close to the White House, “It is clear that Bannon can be a much more effective advocate for Trump on the outside than inside the government.”

Mr. Bossie said Mr. Bannon will likely focus more pressure on Republican leaders in Congress to enact Mr. Trump’s agenda, including tax reform.

“He’s going to be a very important voice for the president as it relates to leaning into Congress, specifically in trying to really get the failure of leadership in the House and in the Senate, to stand up and really take a hold of the president’s agenda,” Mr. Bossie said, calling it “one of the biggest challenges the president’s had.”

The calls for Mr. Bannon’s removal intensified after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, with Mr. Bannon getting much of the blame from critics who said the president has encouraged the “alt-right” movement and the airing of racist views.

While Mr. Trump’s opponents rejoiced at Mr. Bannon’s departure, they also accused the president of being ultimately responsible for a resurgence of white nationalism.

“The problem persists, since the most profound source of division cannot be fired,” tweeted Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat.

Administration officials such as Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin have pushed back forcefully against that argument. Mr. Mnuchin issued a statement Saturday in rejecting a call from Yale classmates who said he has a “moral obligation” to resign over Mr. Trump’s comments that “both sides” were responsible for violence in Charlottesville.

“Our president deserves the opportunity to propose his agenda and to do so without the attempts by those who opposed him in the primaries, in the general election and beyond to distract the administration and the American people from these most important policy issues — jobs, economic growth, and national security,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “I don’t believe the allegations against the president [of encouraging white supremacists] are accurate, and I believe that having the highly talented men and women in our country surrounding the president in his administration should be reassuring to you and all the American people.”

The departure of Mr. Bannon also has raised concerns simply because it is the latest in a long line of staff shakeups in the administration’s first seven months. The list of the departed includes Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, communications directors Michael Dubke and Anthony Scaramucci, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer.

“The problem you have is when you have chaos among your staff,” said Ohio Gov. John Katich on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Staff in, staff out, new people here, new people there. It’s hard to get anything done. You have to be focused. You have to build a team. You can’t keep putting new people in the lineup and think you’re going to win a world championship.”

Mr. Manning said in spite of Mr. Bannon’s departure, the president is the one in control of his agenda and his movement.

“The president of the United States is still a business guy, he’s still listening to multiple sides of an issue and making a decision,” Mr. Manning said. “Ultimately, the president of the United States is his own campaign consultant. He’s unique in a lot of ways.”

Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.

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