After the news broke that President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steven Bannon had been strong-armed out of the National Security Council (NSC) by his adversaries Wednesday, the announcement had many wondering: If Bannon really was Trump’s most trusted advisor, where did that leave the power in the White House?
Bannon, for his part, claimed he wasn’t worried about losing his influence. “I love a gunfight,” he said, according to Axios. And he won’t be kicked out of the president’s inner circle, nor will he be losing his title.
Still, this bit of news didn’t convince everyone, and many news outlets wrote about the shifting power dynamics in the White House. The two people who reportedly pushed Bannon off the NSC were National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.
Over the past few months, a narrative of clashing forces in the White House has developed by different sources over the past few months. And that power struggle has, more-or-less, been delineated into two groups: the far-right, anti-establishment renegades (Bannon, counselor Kellyanne Conway, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, advisor Stephen Miller) and the figures who represent more traditionally conservative and moderate-leaning figures (McMaster, Kushner, Trump’s daughter and senior advisor Ivanka Trump).
Most experts believe the power rifts in the White House are much more complicated. Sessions, for instance, is anything but anti-Washington establishment, after about 20 years in the Senate. Bannon is considered a political outsider who has the president's ear yet has clearly lost at least some degree of influence.
“Blood is thicker than staffers,” said political journalist Domenico Montanaro on NPR’s "Up First" podcast Thursday. “When you look at Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, they have the biggest role in influencing Donald Trump, and it’s always who’s the last person in that room. These folks have a lot of influence on Donald Trump when they are there and have his audience.”
Here’s a breakdown of who’s who in the White House:
Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist
Bannon, the former editor of right-wing news site Breitbart, has been a key Trump adviser since campaign chairman Paul Manafort was dismissed. Some have blamed Bannon for Trump's weak approval ratings.
Jared Kushner, senior advisor and director of the White House Office of Innovation
Just one year ago, Kushner was a businessman with very little political experience. But now, Kushner is working as a shadow diplomat and heading a White House office, and he was also given the task of creating a peace deal in the Middle East.
Ivanka Trump, assistant to the president
The younger Trump attracted ire when she was given an official role and title in the White House, with critics calling out the Trump family out for nepotism. Nonetheless, she and her husband reportedly have considerable influence on the president.
H.R. McMaster, national security adviser
McMaster wielded his power in convincing Trump to remove Bannon from the NSC, which White House officials say is a sign of his expanding influence. But evidently, McMaster doesn’t have all of the leverage in the executive branch. He also reportedly wanted Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director of intelligence, off the NSC, but he was unsuccessful.
Mike Pence, vice president
Although Pence’s influence hasn’t been as widely reported, he does have some clout. One of the big reasons Trump’s original national security advisor Michael Flynn was ousted was because Flynn had lied to Pence — and Pence wasn’t happy.
Reince Priebus, chief of staff
Priebus was once considered among Trump’s closest advisors, though media reports claim the former Republican National Committee chairman doesn’t have much influence at all. In fact, CNN reported that Priebus’ job might be in jeopardy.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president
When Conway managed Trump’s campaign last year, she seemed to be on every news channel at once. But her role has largely been “sidelined,” CNN reported.