The statement from the White House makes little attempt to disguise what happened. ‘White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.’ This is pretty much the same form of words used when Anthony Scaramucci was fired by Kelly. Four senior White House aides have now gone in the last five weeks. So it seems that Kelly, a former US general brought in by Trump a few weeks ago, is serious about fixing this dysfunctional White House – and, perhaps more strikingly, Trump seems serious about letting him do so.
The clincher seems to be a new alliance between Kelly and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who has wanted Bannon fired for some time now. It’s about strategy, as well as personality: Kushner wants to moderate Trump’s message to win over critics whereas Bannon’s style is to bait and enrage critics and delight the base. Kelly says he has no remit or interest in tempering Trump as a president, his only job is to end the chaos in the White House – which meant getting rid of Bannon, who has always had his own agenda.
So yet again, the reality of Trump’s presidency has conformed to a Saturday Night Live sketch: the one, above, in which Trump went into Apprentice mode, choosing which of Bannon or Kuchner would be fired and go to join Kellyanne Conway in his shallow grave of former advisers. He had reservations about both men. “Jared, I’ve sent you all around the world you represent me but no one’s ever heard you speak. Steve, you may be smart but I once walked in on you eating a live pig in the Roosevelt Room. The photo in my hand represents the man who will be staying tonight. You will get to keep advising me.” Kushner wins. “Steve, I’m sorry but it’s goodbye. Jared, you’re such an inspiration. You show America that if you’re born rich and marry my daughter you can do anything you want.”
As ever with Trump, events have outdone satire.