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Steve Bannon: 'The Great Manipulator' has been the brains behind Donald Trump, but is his time up?

Steve Bannon, the man described as 'The Great Manipulator' and the "second most powerful man in the United States", is no longer part of the US National Security Council. Bannon had written Donald Trump's inauguration speech, and was also said to be the brains behind the US president's travel ban. But who is he really?

Steve Bannon. AP

Steve Bannon. AP file image

Bannon, one of Trump's closest aides, is a colourful and controversial figure; the former editor of the Right-wing conspiracy theory website Breitbart News (which also acts as a platform for white nationalism) has described himself as a Leninist who wants to "destroy the administrative state".

The 63-year-old made a name for himself by leading Trump to the White House, but he's worn many hats before turning to politics: He was a naval officer, a merger specialist at Goldman Sachs, and a Hollywood investor who still gets royalties from the TV show Seinfeld. Bannon turned to conservatism in the aftermath of 9/11 and has written and directed documentaries on Sarah Palin and Ronald Reagan.

According to Vox, the turning point in Bannon's life occurred in 2005, when he met Andrew Breitbart at a movie premiere. Breitbart was a little-known conservative flame thrower, and the two became fast friends.

Bannon helped Breitbart transform his website into one of the leading hubs for the far-right on the internet. Breitbart, in turn, was an unabashed admirer of Bannon, describing him as the "Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement".

In 2011, when Breitbart passed away, Bannon took over the website and turned it into a media empire. Bannon jumped on the Trump train early, seeing candidate Trump as a useful vessel to propagate his theory of economic nationalism and anti-globalisation, known as "Bannonism".

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Bannon cited how his father's experiences helped shape his views. His father, Marty Bannon, an employee of AT&T, had little more than his home and some company stock to his name. During the 2008 collapse, he sold all of it at a loss of $100,000. "And nobody is held accountable?" Bannon asked. "Everything since then has come from there. All of it."

Bannon is an outlier, even among the far-right. By all accounts, he despises House speaker Paul Ryan, describing him as "the enemy". According to The Hill, in December 2015, Bannon, in an internal memo, wrote that he the "long game" for Breitbart was to see the demise of Ryan's political career.

According to The New Yorker, Bannon and RNC chairman Rience Priebus have been at each other's throats over control of the White House, each of them carving out their own little empires. Bannon's influence with the president was thought to be growing and even resulted in his elevation to the National Security Council (NSC) at the expense of the director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, much to the chagrin of many Washington insiders.

However, with the defeat of the travel ban and the healthcare bill, both of which Bannon backed fully, has reportedly seen his influence diminish in Trump land, especially with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The New York Times reported that Bannon's departure from the NSC comes as a result of a power play by Kushner and Ivanka, the president's closest advisers.

However, the straw that broke the camel's back was the insistence of National Security Adviser Lt Gen HR McMaster, that Bannon, a political adviser, should not be granted access to the Situation Room, where decisions of life and death were made.

Only time will tell if 'The Great Manipulator' is on his way out, or if he is playing the long game.

Updated Date: Apr 06, 2017 20:12 PM

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