Stephen Kevin Bannon (born November 27, 1953) is an American media executive, political strategist, and former investment banker, who served as the White House's chief strategist in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump during the first seven months of Trump's term. He is a former executive chairman of Breitbart News, and previously served on the board of the now-defunct data-analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.
|White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President|
January 20, 2017 – August 18, 2017
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
Stephen Kevin Bannon
November 27, 1953
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Cathleen Houff Jordan|
Mary Piccard (1995–1997)
Diane Clohesy (2006–2009)
|Education||Virginia Tech (BA)|
Georgetown University (MA)
Harvard University (MBA)
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1976–1983|
Bannon was an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After his military service, he worked for two years at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker. In 1993, he became acting director of the research project Biosphere 2. He became an executive producer in Hollywood, and produced 18 films between 1991 and 2016. In 2007, he co-founded Breitbart News, a far-right[i] website which he described in 2016 as "the platform for the alt-right".[I]
In 2016, Bannon became the chief executive officer of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and was appointed Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President following Trump's election. He left the position eight months later, and rejoined Breitbart. In January 2018, Bannon was disavowed by Trump for critical comments reported in the book Fire and Fury, and left Breitbart.
After leaving the White House, Bannon opposed the Republican Party establishment and supported insurgent candidates in Republican primary elections. Bannon's reputation as a political strategist was questioned when former Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, despite Bannon's support, lost the 2017 United States Senate election in Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones. Bannon had declared his intention to become "the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement." Accordingly, he has supported many national populist conservative political movements around the world, including creating a network of far-right groups in Europe.
In August 2020, Bannon and three others were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering in connection to the We Build the Wall campaign. The defendants allegedly enriched themselves, despite promising that all contributions would go to building a wall. Bannon pleaded not guilty and was pardoned by Trump before his trial date.
In November 2020, Bannon's Twitter account was permanently suspended after he suggested that top government infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded.
Stephen Kevin Bannon was born November 27, 1953 in Norfolk, Virginia, to Doris (née Herr), a homemaker, and Martin J. Bannon Jr., who worked as an AT&T telephone lineman and as a middle manager. He grew up in a working class family which was pro-Kennedy and pro-union Democrat. He is of Irish, and some German, descent. Much of his mother's side of the family settled in the Baltimore area, a hotspot for German arrivals to America throughout the 19th Century.
Bannon graduated from Benedictine College Preparatory, a private, Catholic, military high school in Richmond, Virginia, in 1971, and then attended Virginia Tech, where he served as the president of the student government association. During the summers he worked at a local junk yard.
He graduated from Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies in 1976, with a bachelor's degree in urban planning. While serving in the navy, he earned a master's degree in national security studies in 1983 from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. In 1985, Bannon earned a Master of Business Administration degree with honors from Harvard Business School.
Bannon was an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s; he served on the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster as a surface warfare officer in the Pacific Fleet, and afterwards stateside as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. Bannon's job at the Pentagon was, among other things, handling messages between senior officers and writing reports about the state of the Navy fleet worldwide. While at the Pentagon, Bannon attended Georgetown University at night and obtained his master's degree in national security studies.
In 1980, Bannon was deployed to the Persian Gulf to assist with Operation Eagle Claw during the Iran hostage crisis. The mission's failure marked a turning point in his political world-view from largely apolitical to strongly Reaganite, which was further reinforced by the September 11 attacks. Bannon has stated, "I wasn't political until I got into the service and saw how badly Jimmy Carter fucked things up. I became a huge Reagan admirer. Still am. But what turned me against the whole establishment was coming back from running companies in Asia in 2008 and seeing that Bush had fucked up as badly as Carter. The whole country was a disaster."
After his military service, Bannon worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department. In 1987, he relocated from New York to Los Angeles, to assist Goldman in expanding their presence in the entertainment industry. He stayed at this position with Goldman in Los Angeles for two years, and left with the title of vice president.[b]
In 1990, Bannon and several colleagues from Goldman Sachs launched their own company Bannon & Co., a boutique investment bank specializing in media. In one of Bannon & Co.'s transactions, the firm represented Westinghouse Electric which wanted to sell Castle Rock Entertainment. Bannon negotiated a sale of Castle Rock to Turner Broadcasting System, which was owned by Ted Turner at the time. Instead of a full adviser's fee, Bannon & Co. accepted a financial stake in five television shows, including Seinfeld, which was in its third season. Bannon still receives cash residuals each time Seinfeld is aired. Société Générale purchased Bannon & Co. in 1998.
In 1993, while still managing Bannon & Co., Bannon became acting director of the earth science research project Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona. Under Bannon, the closed-system experiment project shifted emphasis from researching human space exploration and colonization toward the scientific study of earth's environment, pollution, and climate change. He left the project in 1995.
Entertainment and media
In the 1990s, Bannon ventured into entertainment and media, and became an executive producer in the Hollywood film and media industry. Bannon produced 18 films, from Sean Penn's drama The Indian Runner (1991) to Julie Taymor's film Titus (1999). Bannon became a partner with entertainment industry executive Jeff Kwatinetz at film and television management company The Firm, Inc., 2002–2003.
In 2004, Bannon made a documentary about Ronald Reagan titled In the Face of Evil. Through the making and screening of this film, Bannon was introduced to Reagan's War author Peter Schweizer and publisher Andrew Breitbart, who would later describe him as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement. Bannon was involved in the financing and production of a number of films, including Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman (2010), The Undefeated (2011), and Occupy Unmasked (2012).
Bannon persuaded Goldman Sachs to invest, in 2006, in a company known as Internet Gaming Entertainment. Following a lawsuit, the company rebranded as Affinity Media, and Bannon took over as CEO. From 2007 through 2011, Bannon was the chair and CEO of Affinity Media.
In 2007, Bannon wrote an eight-page treatment for a new documentary called Destroying the Great Satan: The Rise of Islamic Facism (sic) in America. The outline states that "although driven by the 'best intentions,' institutions such as the media, the Jewish community and government agencies were appeasing jihadists aiming to create an Islamic republic." In 2011, Bannon spoke at the Liberty Restoration Foundation in Orlando, Florida, about the Economic Crisis of 2008, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, and their impact in the origins of the Tea Party movement, while also discussing his films Generation Zero (2010) and The Undefeated.
Bannon was executive chair and co-founder of the Government Accountability Institute, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization (where he helped orchestrate the publication of Breitbart News senior editor-at-large Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash), from its founding in 2012 until his departure in August 2016. For the years 2012 through 2015, he received between $81,000 and $100,000 each year; the organization reported that he worked an average of 30 hours per week for the organization. He has also worked as vice president of the board of Cambridge Analytica, a data-analytics firm which allegedly used illegal tactics to target American voters in the 2016 election and is owned largely by the Mercer family, the family that also co-owns Breitbart News.
Bannon was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, a far-right[i] news, opinion and commentary website. Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time have said that the site has "pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and antisemitic material into the vein of the alternative right". Bannon said that Breitbart's ideological mix included libertarians, Zionists, the conservative gay community, same-sex marriage opponents, economic nationalists, populists, as well as alt-right, the alt-right comprising a very small proportion overall. Conceding the alt-right holds views with "racial and anti-Semitic overtones," Bannon said he has zero tolerance for such views.
In March 2012, after founder Andrew Breitbart's death, Bannon became executive chair of Breitbart News LLC, the parent company of Breitbart News. Under his leadership, Breitbart took a more alt-right and nationalistic approach toward its agenda. In 2016, Bannon declared the website "the platform for the alt-right". Speaking about his role at Breitbart, Bannon said: "We think of ourselves as virulently anti-establishment, particularly 'anti-' the permanent political class."
On August 18, 2017, Breitbart announced that Bannon would return as executive chairman following his period of employment at the White House. On January 9, 2018, he stepped down as executive chairman.
Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign
On August 17, 2016, with 88 days until the 2016 presidential election, Bannon was appointed chief executive of Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Bannon left Breitbart, as well as the Government Accountability Institute and Cambridge Analytica, to take the job. Shortly after he assumed the chief executive role, the chairman of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort, was dismissed.
On November 13, following Donald Trump's election to the presidency, Bannon was appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to the President-elect. His appointment drew opposition from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Council on American–Islamic Relations, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and some Republican strategists because of statements in Breitbart News that were alleged to be racist or antisemitic. A number of prominent conservative Jews, however, defended Bannon against the allegations of anti-Semitism, including Ben Shapiro, David Horowitz, Pamela Geller, Bernard Marcus of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Morton Klein and the Zionist Organization of America, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.Alan Dershowitz at first defended Bannon, saying there was no evidence he was antisemitic, but then in a later piece stated that Bannon had made bigoted statements against Muslims, women, and others. The ADL stated "We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon." Shapiro, who previously worked as an editor-at-large at Breitbart, said he had no evidence of Bannon being racist or an antisemite, but that Bannon was "happy to pander to those people and make common cause with them in order to transform conservatism into European far-right nationalist populism". Bannon had referred to French National Front (now National Rally) politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen as "the new rising star".
On November 15, 2016, U.S. Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island released a letter to Trump signed by 169 Democratic House Representatives urging the President-Elect to rescind his appointment of Bannon. The letter stated that appointing Bannon "sends a disturbing message about what kind of president Donald Trump wants to be", because his "ties to the White Nationalist movement have been well documented"; it went on to present several examples of Breitbart News's alleged xenophobia. Bannon denied being a white nationalist and claimed, rather, that he was an "economic nationalist."
On November 18, during his first interview not conducted by Breitbart Media since the 2016 presidential election, Bannon remarked on some criticisms made about him, saying, "Darkness is good: Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing." The quote was published widely in the media.
In an interview with The New York Times in late November, Trump responded to the controversy over Bannon's appointment, saying, "I've known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn't even think about hiring him."
In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Bannon said that his role was to "recalibrate" the campaign which had at that point lost its message. He "stepped in and got the campaign refocused", but he rebuffed the idea that he was the reason Trump won the presidency, saying "Trump is unique in American political history, he's his own closer". But that his role was to make sure that Hilary Clinton was held up as a "guardian of a corrupt and incompetent establishment" and this that was key to winning votes in states that Trump needed to win.
Reuters reported on October 31, 2018, that the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting a "wide-ranging" investigation of Bannon's activities during the campaign, including knowledge he may have had about any contacts between Russia and two campaign advisors, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, as well as his role with Cambridge Analytica.
National Security Council
At the end of January 2017, in a departure from the previous format of the National Security Council (NSC), the holder of Bannon's position, along with that of the Chief of Staff, were designated by presidential memorandum as regular attendees to the NSC's Principals Committee, a Cabinet-level senior inter-agency forum for considering national security issues. The enacted arrangement was criticized by several members of previous administrations and was called "stone cold crazy" by Susan E. Rice, Barack Obama's last national security adviser. In response, White House spokesman Sean Spicer pointed to Bannon's seven years experience as a Navy officer in justifying his presence on the Committee.
Presidency of Donald Trump
Upon his inauguration, Trump appointed Bannon to be his Chief Strategist, a newly created position. The title made him a counselor to the president, nearly equivalent in authority to the Chief of Staff. As a staff member in the Executive Office of the President, the position did not require Senate confirmation. Breitbart News editor Julia Hahn followed Bannon to the White House, where she was appointed as Bannon's aide, as well as Special Assistant to President Trump.
Several days after Trump's inauguration, Bannon told The New York Times, "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this: the media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."
Bannon, along with Stephen Miller, was involved in the creation of Executive Order 13769, which resulted in restricted U.S. travel and immigration by individuals from seven countries, suspension of the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days, and indefinite suspension of the entry of Syrians to the United States. According to The Economist, a British news magazine, Bannon and Miller "see Mr [Vladimir] Putin as a fellow nationalist and crusader against cosmopolitanism."
In February 2017, Bannon appeared on the cover of Time, on which he was labeled "the Great Manipulator". The headline used for the associated article was "Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the World?", alluding to Bannon's perceived influence in the White House.
In 2018, Michael Lewis published a quote ascribed to Bannon, made while the transition team for Trump was supposed to be preparing for the next administration, and The Guardian has used it twice in the title of an excerpt from the 2018 Lewis book entitled, The Fifth Risk. The book examined the difference between the transition preparations provided by the administration that was exiting and what did or did not occur, and it revealed a profound lack of preparedness and concern, as expressed in the quote.
In a March 14, 2019 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross was questioned about his conversations regarding the adding of a citizenship question to the 2020 census surveys, which he had with Bannon, who in turn had referred him to immigration hardliners Kris Kobach and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Missouri Democratic Representative Lacy Clay accused Ross of being "complicit" regarding his efforts to weaken minority group voting rights, additionally accusing him of committing perjury with respect to those contacts. Clay called for Ross to tender his resignation, saying, "You lied to Congress. You misled the American people and you are complicit in the Trump administration's intent to suppress the growing political power of the non-white population." Ross said the change was in response to a request by the Justice Department for statistics to protect voting rights. On April 23, 2019, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments regarding appeals of rejections by three circuit courts of the proposed inclusion of the survey question.
It was reported that he intentionally published stories to undermine H. R. McMaster. Bannon allegedly did this by leaking information to the alternative media, including alt-right writer Mike Cernovich. It was also reported that the Trump administration retroactively granted Bannon a blanket exemption from federal ethics rules that allowed him to communicate with editors at Breitbart News, which according to former Breitbart consultant Kurt Bardella would be proof of the administration's intent to allow him to continue being "the de facto editorial director of Breitbart". In the final hours of Donald Trump's administration Steve Bannon was issued a presidential pardon for being a "... important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen"
Bannon was removed from his NSC role in early April 2017 in a reorganization by U.S. National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, whom Bannon had helped select. Some White House officials said Bannon's main purpose in serving on the committee was as a check against former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn, who had resigned in February 2017 for misleading the vice president about a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Hence, with Flynn gone, Bannon was no longer needed. Bannon reportedly opposed his removal from the council and threatened to quit if president Trump went forward with it, although Republican megadonor Rebekah Mercer urged him to stay. The White House said Bannon had not attempted to leave, and Bannon said any indication that he threatened resignation was "total nonsense". Bannon only attended one NSC meeting.
Departure from the White House
Bannon's employment in the White House ended on August 18, 2017, less than a week after the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally which degenerated into violence and acrimony. Whereas members of both political parties condemned the hatred and violence of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists, The New York Times noted that Trump "was the only national political figure to spread blame for the 'hatred, bigotry and violence' that resulted in the death of one person to 'many sides'". The decision to blame "many sides" was reported to have come from Bannon. The NAACP released a statement saying that while they "acknowledge and appreciate President Trump's disavowment of the hatred which has resulted in a loss of life today", they called on Trump "to take the tangible step to remove Steve Bannon – a well-known white supremacist leader – from his team of advisers". The statement further described Bannon as a "symbol of white nationalism" who "energized that sentiment" through his current position within the White House.
Some sources stated that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly asked Bannon on August 18, 2017, to submit his immediate resignation in lieu of being fired. Bannon, however, stated he was not fired but rather submitted his two-week resignation notice on August 4, 2017. He reminded The Weekly Standard that he had joined then-presidential candidate Trump's campaign on August 14, 2016, and said he'd "always planned on spending one year," but that he stayed a few more days due to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In an official statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "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."
The same day, Breitbart News announced that Bannon would return to the site as executive chairman. Several weeks after his departure it was reported that Trump still called Bannon using his personal cell phone, and was only calling when chief of staff Kelly was not around. The Washington Post reported in October 2017 that Trump and Bannon remained in regular contact.
Post-Trump administration activities
After leaving the White House, Bannon declared his intention to become "the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement." He toured Europe to speak at events with various far-right political parties there, in a bid to build a network of right-wing populist-nationalist parties aspiring to government. Bannon visited France's National Front (now the National Rally), Hungary's Fidesz, the Italian League, the Five Star Movement, the Brothers of Italy, Alternative for Germany, the Polish Law and Justice, the Sweden Democrats, the Dutch Party for Freedom, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Swiss People's Party, the UK Independence Party, the Flemish Vlaams Belang, the Belgian People's Party, Spain's Vox, the Finns Party, the UK Conservative Party, the pan-European identitarian movement, Republika Srpska's Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, and the Israeli Likud. Bannon believes that these movements – along with Japan's Shinzo Abe, India's Narendra Modi, Russia's Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabia's Mohammad bin Salman, China's Xi Jinping, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and America's Donald Trump, as well as similar leaders in Egypt, the Philippines, Poland, and South Korea – are part of a global shift towards nationalism. Bannon's attempt to build a network of far-right parties in Europe had only limited success; while he appeared at events with the French National Rally's Marine Le Pen and the Italian League's Matteo Salvini, the Sweden Democrats said that had "no interest" in Bannon's initiative, the Flemish Vlaams Belang called it "poorly organized", and the Alternative for Germany cited divergent views among the parties. Right-wing populist parties did not achieve a surge in support in the 2019 European Parliament elections. The Atlantic cited a number of factors inhibiting Bannon's project, including differing national and ideological views among the European far right and U.S.-skeptical views held by some parties of the European extreme right.
Bannon supports the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a right-wing Catholic organization in Italy formerly based in what was previously Trisulti Charterhouse; Bannon drafted a leadership course curriculum for the group to train conservative Catholic political activists. In 2018, Bannon announced that he planned to establish a right-wing academy on the site, with the support of Benjamin Harnwell, a British associate of Bannon's who underwrote the project and aimed to create a "gladiator school for culture warriors." However, in 2019, the group's rights to use the former monastery were revoked by the Italian government due to failure to pay rent and conduct maintenance work.
In August 2018, Bannon met with Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, and served as informal advisor to the Bolsonaro campaign in the Brazilian presidential elections that year. In February 2019, the younger Bolsonaro joined Bannon's organization The Movement as its representative in South America. In March 2019, Bannon met with both Bolsonaros in Washington, D.C.
Roger Stone trial
In November 2019, Bannon gave evidence in the federal criminal trial of Roger Stone. Bannon did not voluntarily testify; rather, he was compelled to give evidence under subpoena. Bannon testified that Stone was WikiLeaks' access point for the Trump campaign; the testimony helped establish that Stone lied to Congress. Stone was subsequently convicted on all charges (lying to Congress and witness tampering), but on July 10, 2020, his federal prison sentence was commuted by President Trump. Asked for a comment after Bannon himself was arrested on August 20, 2020, Stone replied, "Karma is a bitch. But I am praying for him."
Work with Guo Wengui
In October 2017, after leaving the White House, Bannon met exiled Chinese billionaire businessman Guo Wengui (also known as Miles Kwok), and the pair cultivated a friendship, frequently meeting in Dallas, at Guo's apartment at The Sherry-Netherland in New York, and on Guo's yacht. In 2017, Guo reportedly gave a $150,000 loan to Bannon shortly after he left the White House, and a Guo-linked company entered into a $1 million consulting contract with Bannon, beginning in August 2018. In early 2020, Bannon and Guo raised hundreds of millions of dollars in a private offering for a company called GTV Media Group. In August 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that the fundraising for the company was under investigation of federal and state authorities.
Guo has allowed Bannon to use one of his two private jets, and during the 2018 election campaign, Bannon flew on Guo's Bombardier Global Express to events in support of Republican congressional candidates in New Mexico and Arizona. The flights were revealed in February 2020 by ProPublica. Bannon made the flights under the auspices of his dark money group, Citizens of the American Republic. Several campaign finance experts who spoke with ProPublica said the trips could violate federal campaign finance law, which prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions to candidates in U.S. political campaigns (including in-kind contributions such as payment for campaign-related travel). Guo and Bannon denied that the travel was for campaign activity; an attorney for Bannon's group stated that the trips on the private jet were to promote Bannon's film, Trump@War.
On June 3, 2020, Bannon and Guo participated in declaring a "New Federal State of China" (also called "Federal State of New China"). It was proclaimed that they would overthrow the Chinese government. In New York City, planes were seen carrying banners which said "Congratulations to Federal State of New China!".
On August 20, 2020, federal prosecutors in New York unsealed criminal charges against Stephen K. Bannon and three other men they alleged defrauded donors to a massive crowdfunding campaign that claimed to be raising money for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. After Bannon's arrest, Guo Wengui hurriedly cut ties with him, stressed that he was not involved in Bannon's affairs outside their shared efforts "fighting for democracy in China", and would no longer allow Bannon to continue to serve as a member of Guo Media's board of directors.
Republican Senate primaries
Bannon has made efforts to unseat incumbent Republican members of Congress he deemed to be insufficiently supportive of Trump's agenda. In October 2017, Bannon said he planned to sponsor primary challenges against six of the seven incumbent Republican senators in the 2018 elections. He said he had two requirements for a candidate to earn his support: they must pledge to vote against Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader and to end the Senate filibuster.
Bannon received credit for helping Roy Moore defeat incumbent Senator Luther Strange in the September Republican primary for the 2017 special Alabama Senate election, despite Trump's having endorsed Strange. After nine women alleged sexual misconduct, Bannon doubled down on his support for the candidate, raising doubt about the veracity of the accusations. When Ivanka Trump condemned Moore's campaign in Alabama, saying "there's a special place in hell for people who prey on children", Bannon responded, "What about the allegations about her dad and that 13-year-old?", in reference to a woman who accused Trump and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein of raping her at that age. (In August 2018, the New York Post alleged that Bannon was then trying to restore Epstein's favor for financial gain.)
In what had been considered a safe Republican seat, Moore lost the election on December 12, 2017. Bannon's reputation as a political strategist was subsequently questioned by Republican commentators.
Quotes in Michael Wolff books
In January 2018, upon the publication of Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which attributed many controversial and inflammatory statements to Bannon, Bannon and Trump became estranged and were widely seen as enemies. The book quoted Bannon as saying that Ivanka Trump was "as dumb as a brick"; that the meeting among Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and agents of Russia was "treasonous"; and that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller would cause Donald Trump Jr. to "crack like an egg on live television". Bannon also warned that investigators would likely uncover money laundering involving Jared Kushner and his family business loans from Deutsche Bank.
In his 2019 book Siege, Wolff wrote, "Trump was vulnerable because for 40 years he had run what increasingly seemed to resemble a semi-criminal enterprise," then quoted Bannon as saying, "I think we can drop the 'semi' part." Wolff wrote that Bannon predicted investigations into Trump's finances would be his political downfall, quoting Bannon as saying, "This is where it isn't a witch hunt – even for the hard core, this is where he turns into just a crooked business guy, and one worth $50 million instead of $10 billion. Not the billionaire he said he was, just another scumbag."
Ouster from Breitbart, relationship with Trump, and media ventures
In January 2018, after excerpts from Fire and Fury were published, Trump promptly disavowed Bannon, saying that Bannon "lost his mind" when he left the White House, and attacking him in multiple angry statements. Trump asserted in a tweet that Bannon had "cried when he got fired and begged for his job" and publicly referred to Bannon with an unflattering nickname ("Sloppy Steve") in reference to Bannon's disheveled appearance. On January 7, 2018, Bannon expressed regret over his delayed response, declared his "unwavering" support for Trump and his agenda, and praised Donald Trump Jr. Bannon said his remarks about the campaign meeting were aimed at Manafort instead of Trump Jr., a claim which Wolff contested.
Because of the break with Trump, Bannon's position as head of Breitbart News was called into question by Breitbart's owners, and on January 9, 2018, he stepped down as executive chairman. The billionaire funders of Breitbart, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, reportedly decided to push out Bannon from Breitbart in part because of his break with Trump, and in part because they had become weary of Bannon's "impulsive and attention-seeking antics" and Bannon's expenditures on "travel and private security." After being ousted from Breitbart, Bannon established Citizens of the American Republic as a new vehicle for his political activities; in 2018, Bannon focused on the group in an attempt to keep Republican control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 election. The group is a dark money organization; Bannon declined to "describe his donors or how much money the group has raised."
Despite Trump's disparagement of him, Bannon retained ties with Trump. In an appearance in August 2019 on CNBC, Bannon praised Trump as a "great leader as president" and "amazing campaigner"; in response, Trump called Bannon "one of my best pupils" and "still a giant Trump fan" and said he "loved working with" Bannon. In 2018, Bannon released a pro-Trump documentary, Trump @ War through his production company, Victory Films; the film aimed to galvanize Trump supporters ahead of the 2018 elections in a bid to keep a Republican majority in the House. In October 2019, Bannon began co-hosting War Room: Impeachment, a daily radio show and podcast in which he offered advice to the Trump administration and its allies on how to counter the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump. In 2020, Bannon began a podcast War Room: Pandemic, broadcast from his Capitol Hill townhouse; Bannon told friends that Trump had "told others that he watches the program and that the president was familiar enough with it to cite specific interviews he had seen when the two men spoke this summer."
Federal fraud indictment
On August 20, 2020, a federal grand jury indictment was unsealed against Bannon and three others, charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. Each charge has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison upon conviction. Federal prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York allege that Bannon, United States Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage and the two other defendants used funds received from the We Build the Wall fundraising campaign, marketed to support the building of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, in a way which was "inconsistent" with how they were advertised for use to the public. According to the indictment, donations were collected through a GoFundMe campaign that was launched in December 2018. Bannon promoted the project until the day before the indictment, saying "You've been the leader of this, assisting President Trump in building this wall in these tough areas" in his War Room: Pandemic podcast.
Federal prosecutors allege that Bannon and the three other men conspired to use a non-profit group run by Bannon, and a shell company controlled by one of the other defendants, to make payments to themselves, despite promises to donors that their contributions would go to build a wall. Prosecutors also alleged that Bannon received more than $1 million in connection with the plan, some of which was paid to Kolfage in secret and some of which Bannon and two other defendants allegedly used for personal expenses ranging from paying off credit cards to personal travel. Prosecutors stated that they plan to seize the assets of Bannon's non-profit Citizens of the American Republic, as well as other organizations "politically aligned with [Donald] Trump". Bannon was arrested by U.S. Postal Inspectors on Long Island Sound, off the coast of Connecticut, on board People's Republic of China expatriate Guo Wengui's luxury yacht. Later that day, Bannon pleaded not guilty to the charges. Bannon was released pending trial on a $5 million bond, of which Bannon was required to put up $1.7 million. He was required to surrender his passport and his domestic travel was restricted. Following the indictment, Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. distanced themselves from Bannon. Trump Jr. had originally been supportive of Bannon's fundraising efforts for the Trump wall.
At a preliminary hearing on August 31, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres set a trial date for May 24, 2021. Prosecutors revealed that they had collected a large number of emails found on various devices and online storage accounts after search warrants were executed—some earlier in the year.
On January 20, 2021, Trump granted Bannon a pardon from the federal charges. CNN reported in February 2021 that since the pardon the Manhattan district attorney had issued subpoenas to Wells Fargo Bank and GoFundMe, which had provided accounts for the venture, signaling that a criminal investigation on state charges was advancing.
In May 2021, Southern District of New York Judge Analisa Torres, citing precedents of criminal cases being dismissed following presidential pardons, dismissed the fraud case against Bannon, stating that the pardon that Trump had issued to Bannon was valid, and that dismissal of the indictment was "the proper course." In her ruling, Torres stated that despite Bannon not pleading guilty, "the issuance of a pardon may carry an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it." She further quoted: "If there be no guilt, there is no ground for forgiveness."
Social media bans
During the November 5, 2020 edition of his webcast, Bannon called for the beheadings of Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Bannon said that if it were up to him, after beheading Fauci and Wray, "I'd put the heads on pikes" and display them outside the White House "as a warning to bureaucrats" who dared oppose Trump. By the end of the day, Facebook and YouTube had deleted the video from their platforms, and Twitter had permanently banned his account for glorifying violence. Mailchimp also disabled Bannon's email newsletter. The next day, Bannon was dropped by a lawyer who had been defending him against federal charges of fraud.
On January 9, 2021, Rudy Giuliani appeared on War Room, accusing Democrats of stealing the recent presidential election and blaming them for the storming of the Capitol. Hours later, YouTube removed both the podcast channel and another one called "Trump at War – A Film by Stephen K. Bannon", citing a "violation of YouTube's Terms of Service."
Bannon told journalist Michael Lewis in February 2018, "We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall. This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls." He added, "The Democrats don't matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit."
A self-described economic nationalist, Bannon advocates for reductions in immigration and restrictions on free trade with China and Mexico. He has referred to himself as a "proud Christian Zionist" in reference to his support of Israel. He has been described as a white nationalist, but rejects the description.
Bannon favors raising federal income taxes to 44 percent for those earning incomes over $5 million a year as a way to pay for middle class tax cuts. He also supports significantly increasing spending on infrastructure, describing himself as "the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan". He generally believes in reducing the size of the federal bureaucracy, declaring at the Conservative Political Action Conference he favored the "deconstruction of the administrative state". He was a strong opponent of the Paris climate agreement within the administration, successfully persuading the President to withdraw from it.
Bannon favors reducing immigration, both legal and illegal immigration, to the U.S. and asserts that immigration threatens national sovereignty. Bannon has suggested that too many Silicon Valley chief executives are Asian or South Asian, and that this undermines "civic society." In a 2015 radio appearance, Bannon expressed opposition to resettling any refugees of the Syrian Civil War in the U.S. In a 2016 radio appearance, Bannon asserted that illegal immigration was "horrific" but that legal immigration was "the beating heart of this problem"; that levels of legal immigration to the U.S. were "scary"; and that legal immigrants had "kinda overwhelmed the country."
Bannon is the chairman of We Build The Wall, an organization involved in the construction of the proposed expansion of Mexico–United States barrier.
Overseas military intervention
He is generally skeptical of military intervention abroad, opposing proposals for the expansion of U.S. involvement in the War in Afghanistan, the Syrian Civil War, and the crisis in Venezuela.
In Afghanistan, he supported a proposal by Erik Prince for the deployment of private military contractors instead of the U.S. military. He believes "there is no military solution" to the 2017 North Korea crisis.
Bannon has described U.S. allies in Europe, the Persian Gulf, the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, as well as South Korea and Japan, as having become "protectorates of the United States" that do not "make an effort to defend [themselves]", and believes NATO members should pay a minimum of 2% of GDP on defense.
Bannon opposes upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The Middle East
Bannon strongly favors U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and was supportive of the approach taken by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis.
During his tenure as White House Chief Strategist, Bannon opposed the 2017 Shayrat missile strike, but lost the internal debate on the matter to Kushner. He also expressed skepticism about the 2020 assassination of Qasem Soleimani, questioning whether it was "necessary to kill this guy and to kill him now and to exacerbate the military issues", and warned that an escalation with Iran could undermine Trump's support with "working-class, middle-class people, particularly people whose sons and daughters actually fight in these wars."
Bannon reportedly speaks often with Trump donor Sheldon Adelson, and has been alarmed at a push for a renewed Middle East peace process. He has described Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a "terrorist". He has advocated giving the land in the West Bank to Jordan and in Gaza to Egypt.
Bannon urged Boris Johnson, who Bannon said in July 2018 that he had known "over the last year" and was "very impressed" with, to challenge Prime Minister Theresa May. According to a Buzzfeed News report, Bannon was in private contact with Johnson during his visit to Britain that month, and the two men were previously in text communication during their respective tenures as White House Chief Strategist and British Foreign Secretary.
Bannon has defended Trump's ties to and praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He expressed a belief that Traditionalists see Russia as an ally. Bannon said they "believe that at least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he's trying to do it in a form of nationalism—and I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see the sovereignty for their country. They want to see nationalism for their country" rather than a "pan-European Union". According to the book War for Eternity Bannon met notorious Russian ideologue Aleksandr Dugin in Rome in 2018 to advocate closer relations between the United States and Russia, as well as Traditionalist philosophy.
In 2018, Bannon announced plans to launch a new political operation beginning with an attempt to unite populist parties across Europe before the 2019 European Parliament election. With the project to be based in Brussels, he indicated he would spend 50 percent of his time in Europe from the following November working at locations throughout the continent. Later that year, Bannon formed a foundation called The Movement to connect far-right groups throughout Europe.
Bannon is supportive of European right-wing populist national conservative movements such as the Hungarian Fidesz, the French National Front (now National Rally), the Spanish Vox, the Dutch Party for Freedom, Alternative for Germany, the Italian Northern League, the Brothers of Italy, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Sweden Democrats, the Danish People's Party, the Flemish Vlaams Belang and the New Flemish Alliance, the Polish Law and Justice, and the Swiss People's Party.
In his talk delivered to a small conference in the Vatican during 2014, Bannon said: "If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places ... it bequeathed to us the great institution that is the church of the West". He is reputed to believe Putin's Russia and Trump's America are Christian allies against the Islamic State and "radical Islamic terrorism".
Overview and influences
Bannon's ideology was the subject of the book War for Eternity by Benjamin R. Teitelbaum, where his thinking is described as combining elements of a radical version of the Traditionalist school with paleoconservatism and other more standard American conservative beliefs. Bannon's political and economic views have been described by others as nationalist, and right-wing populist. He self-identifies as a conservative. He rejects allegations that he is a white nationalist.
At a party congress in March 2018, Bannon gave members of the French right-wing populist National Front (NF) what has been described as a "populist pep talk". He advised party members to "Let them call you racist, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists. Wear it like a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker. ... History is on our side and will bring us victory." Bannon's remarks brought the members to their feet. Critics expressed concern that Bannon was "normalizing racism."
Bannon often describes himself as an economic nationalist, criticizing crony capitalism, Austrian economics, and the Objectivist capitalism of Ayn Rand. He also generally considers himself a free-market capitalist. He has referred to himself as a "proud Christian Zionist" in reference to his support of Israel.
Bannon was influenced by Fourth Turning theory, outlined in Neil Howe's and William Strauss's The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, one of Bannon's favorite books. The theory proposes that "populism, nationalism and state-run authoritarianism would soon be on the rise, not just in America but around the world. [... Once one strips] away the extraneous accidents and technology, you are left with only a limited number of social moods, which tend to recur in a fixed order" and cyclically. The book was major influence on Bannon's film Generation Zero.
Bannon's political beliefs have been influenced by René Guénon's Traditionalism, a form of anti-modernist thought that views "certain ancient religions, including the Hindu Vedanta, Sufism, and medieval Catholicism" as being repositories of spiritual truth under attack by Western secularism; he synthesizes Traditionalist beliefs with Catholic social doctrine, particularly the idea of subsidiarity, as expressed in the 1931 papal encyclical, Quadragesimo anno, defending that political matters ought to be handled by the lowest, least centralized competent authority. According to Bannon's former friends, he was particularly influenced by the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita and the ancient Chinese military treatise The Art of War. Bannon has also cited the Russian neo-fascist Alexander Dugin, who promotes a Russian nationalist variant of Traditionalism called Eurasianism, and described himself as a fan of Dugin's book, The Fourth Political Theory. However, Bannon has urged Dugin to abandon his anti-American and Sinophile views. Bannon has also described Brazilian Traditionalist thinker Olavo de Carvalho as "one of the great conservative intellectuals in the world".
Lebanese-American author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, neoreactionary blogger Curtis Yarvin and conservative intellectual Michael Anton have been pointed out as three of the main influences in Steve Bannon's political thinking. Bannon is an admirer of paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan. Bannon's favorite columnist is academic Walter Russell Mead. Political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke has also been described as a major influence on Bannon's ideological outlook. In a 2014 speech to a Vatican conference, Bannon made a passing reference to Julius Evola, a twentieth-century, Nazi-linked Italian writer who influenced Benito Mussolini's Italian Fascism and promoted the Traditionalist School, described by a New York Times writer as "a worldview popular in far-right and alternative religious circles that believes progress and equality are poisonous illusions." Bannon's interest in the ideas of the Traditionalist School was driven by Evola's book Revolt Against the Modern World, and Guénon's books Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta and The Crisis of the Modern World. In March 2016, Bannon stated he appreciates "any piece that mentions Evola." In referring to the associated views of Vladimir Putin, who is influenced by Evola follower Dugin, Bannon stated "We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what he's talking about as far as Traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism." He has likewise quoted French anti-Enlightenment writer Charles Maurras approvingly to a French diplomat. Bannon has also repeatedly referenced the controversial French novel The Camp of the Saints (1973) by Jean Raspail, which depicts Third World immigration destroying Western civilization. He has embraced what BBC News describes as Savitri Devi's "account of history as a cyclical battle between good and evil". Bannon told an interviewer in 2018 that he is "fascinated by Mussolini", noting: "He was clearly loved by women. He was a guy's guy. He has all that virility. He also had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole thing with the uniforms." A former Breitbart writer has claimed Bannon stated in 2015 that alt-right publication American Renaissance was "fighting the same fight" as him. Bannon has expressed admiration for German Conservative Revolutionary philosopher Martin Heidegger, praising his "ideas on the subject of being".
German film director Leni Riefenstahl, who produced propaganda films for the regime in Nazi Germany, is said to have influenced Bannon's film-making techniques, with Bannon once describing himself to writing colleague Julia Jones as the "Riefenstahl of George Bush", modifying the ending as "the GOP" when Jones was horrified. The opening of Bannon's documentary film The Hope & The Change (2012) consciously imitated Riefenstahl's film The Triumph of the Will (1935), which depicted the Nuremberg Rally held in 1934.
According to The Guardian (London) in January 2018, Bannon's ideology is substantially similar to that of Stephen Miller, Tucker Carlson, Benny Johnson, Raheem Kassam and Matthew Boyle, the latter two having been protégés of Bannon at Breitbart.
Bannon has been married and divorced three times. He has three adult daughters. His first marriage was to Cathleen Suzanne Houff. Bannon and Houff had a daughter, Maureen, in 1988 and subsequently divorced.
Bannon's second marriage was to Mary Louise Piccard, a former investment banker, in April 1995. Their twin daughters were born three days after the wedding. Piccard filed for dissolution of their marriage in 1997.
Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness in early January 1996 after Piccard accused Bannon of domestic abuse. The Santa Monica Police Department crime report states that after Piccard called 911, an officer arrived at their home and observed red marks on Piccard's wrist and neck. The charges were later dropped when Piccard did not appear in court. In an article in The New York Times, Piccard stated her absence was due to threats made to her by Bannon and his lawyer:
Mr. Bannon, she said, told her that "if I went to court, he and his attorney would make sure that I would be the one who was guilty" ... Mr. Bannon's lawyer, she said, "threatened me," telling her that if Mr. Bannon went to jail, she "would have no money and no way to support the children." ... Mr. Bannon's lawyer ... denied pressuring her not to testify.
During their divorce proceedings, Piccard alleged that Bannon had made antisemitic remarks about her choice of schools, saying he did not want to send his children to The Archer School for Girls because there were too many Jews at the school, and Jews raise their children to be "whiny brats". Bannon's spokesperson denied the accusation, noting that he had chosen to send both his children to the Archer School.
Bannon has been a producer, writer, director or actor on the following films and documentaries:
|1991||The Indian Runner||executive producer|
|2004||In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed||director, co-producer, writer||based on the 2003 book Reagan's War by Peter Schweizer|
|2005||Cochise County USA: Cries from the Border||executive producer|
|2006||Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration||executive producer|
|2007||Tradition Never Graduates: A Season Inside Notre Dame Football||executive producer|
|2010||Generation Zero||director, producer, writer||based on the 1997 book The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe|
|Battle for America||director, producer, writer|
|Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman||director, producer, writer|
|2011||Still Point in a Turning World: Ronald Reagan and His Ranch||director, writer|
|The Undefeated||director, producer, writer||documentary on Sarah Palin|
|2012||Occupy Unmasked||director, writer|
|The Hope & The Change||director, producer, writer||documentary on former Barack Obama supporters|
|District of Corruption||director, producer|
|2016||Clinton Cash||producer, writer||based on the same-titled Peter Schweizer book Clinton Cash|
|Torchbearer||director, producer, writer||features Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson|
|2018||Trump @War||director, writer||Starring Corey Lewandowski, Pete Hegseth, Sebastian Gorka, Raheem Kassam, Sonnie Johnson, Raynard Jackson, Alfredo Ortiz, Sasha Gong, Erik Prince, Joe Concha, Lian Chao Han, Bill Gertz, Michael Caputo, Rob Wasinger, John Zmirak|
|2019||Claws of the Red Dragon||executive producer|
Breitbart called far-right
Breitbart associated with the alt-right
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'We're [i.e., Breitbart News is] the platform for the alt-right,' Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July.
- See, e.g.:
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... the unmistakable imprint of Breitbart News, the 'alt-right' website ...
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Another major alt-right platform is Breitbart.com, a right-wing news site ...
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Bannon's Breitbart distinguished itself from the rest of the conservative media in two significant ways this cycle... The second was through their embrace of the alt-right ...
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Breitbart News, declared 'the platform for the alt-right' last month by then-chair, Steve Bannon.
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This Facebook group is for an outfit called Vigilant Patriots, which claims its goals are defending and upholding the Constitution and preserving "our history and culture." As of Friday morning, it listed nearly 3,600 members, including Stephen Bannon, who apparently joined the group seven years ago.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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- Connery, William. "Point of Entry: Baltimore, the Other Ellis Island". baltimoremd.com. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
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Bannon graduated from the Harvard Business School in 1985.
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- Per a Harvard Crimson article, but note that some places mistakenly claim Bannon graduated in 1983, which was his *first* year at Harvard, according to the Boston Globe.
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But he says Breitbart is also a platform for 'libertarians,' Zionists, 'the conservative gay community,' ...
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If established Hollywood conservatives welcome the energy of this new group, some nonetheless fear that it is heading down the wrong path ... Even the outspoken Mr. Bannon thinks that little will be gained if conservative ideology moves too far in front of conservative art. 'We have the money, we have the ideas,' he said. 'What we don't have – and what the left has in spades – are great filmmakers.'
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