Following the New York Times scoop Friday that Steve Bannon would be leaving the White House in the immediate future, one question rose to the forefront: Did Bannon leave of his own volition, or was he pushed? On Thursday, one day before the news hit the public sphere, the progressive publication The American Prospect published a Steve Bannon interview in regard to the "unrepentant" figure.
Wrote journalist Robert Kuttner, who was called by Bannon while on vacation:
I had never before spoken with Bannon. I came away from the conversation with a sense both of his savvy and his recklessness ... Either the reports of the threats to Bannon’s job are grossly exaggerated and leaked by his rivals, or he has decided not to change his routine and to go down fighting.
Their conversation was an explosive one. Among other things, Bannon dismissed white supremacists and their seeming revival, calling them "losers," a "fringe element," and "a collection of clowns." He also mocked Democrats and the ongoing conversation about identity politics among the left.
"I want them to talk about racism every day," Bannon reportedly told Kuttner. "If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats."
Bannon had also appeared to completely nullify Trump's dire warnings to North Korea. He told Kuttner, "Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us."
It was at odds with his now-former boss' public stance on North Korea. Just days before, Trump had raised the specter of a nuclear war, warning that he would unleash "fire and fury" and that the U.S. military was "locked and loaded" on the isolated nation.
For months now, Bannon has reportedly laid low in the White House after reportedly falling out of favor with Trump. As news broke Friday that he was finally leaving, it remained unclear what the final straw was for the president.
The White House issued a statement soon after that read: "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day." A source told CNN however, that Bannon was given the option to resign, but was ultimately "forced out."
Ironically, in his phone conversation with The American Prospect's Kuttner on Tuesday, Bannon had reportedly described in detail how he planned to oust his opponents at the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury. He said, of so-called rivals: "They're wetting themselves."