For months, Steve Bannon's job has been hanging in the balance. Although Bannon is Donald Trump's chief strategist, he has long been at odds with Trump's national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. According to Reuters, this feud has negatively affected Trump's other top aides, but Trump is still reportedly reluctant to fire Bannon.
Bannon's future in the White House is by no means assured — at a press conference in New York City on Tuesday, Trump vaguely implied as much — but despite refusing to publicly voice support for him, Trump also has not bowed to pressure from those who have called for Bannon's firing. And although Trump cast doubt on Bannon's future in his administration, he also took some time to defend him from his fiercest critics:
I like Mr. Bannon; he's a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that. I like him. He's a good man. He's not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he's a good person, and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.
Trump's reluctance to fire a known white nationalist has elicited a significant amount of pushback and criticism from Democrats and some Republicans — indeed, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi explicitly described Bannon as a white supremacist — but Reuters' Tuesday report suggested that Trump is worried that Bannon will turn on him if he is dismissed. Given how significant a role Bannon's former news site, Breitbart, played in getting Trump elected, it is unsurprising that Trump reportedly fears Bannon's retribution on the same platform.
Reuters also reported that Bannon might be demoted instead of fired, given that his ouster as chief strategist could be politically dangerous for Trump. The report also said that Trump might give McMaster a different role — perhaps an active military command role that he once occupied — in order to end the feud between him and Bannon.
Bannon has been in a precarious situation for months, and he and McMaster have disagreed on everything from the U.S.' relationship with Iran to White House staffing. Given his platform and power, however, Bannon has thus far managed to retain his position in the White House, and it has rapidly become clear that even Trump does not know how to approach this particular rift in his administration.