Trump’s chief strategist is struggling to keep his job.

When Stephen Bannon reported for work on Thursday, he did not act like a man who had just been publicly humiliated by his boss.

The White House chief strategist cycled in and out of the Oval Office for meetings with US President Donald Trump and took a seat in the front row of the East Room for the afternoon visit of Nato's secretary-general, flanked by some of the very advisers with whom he has been feuding.

But for Bannon, the day's routine obscured the reality that he is a marked man - diminished by weeks of battles with the bloc of centrists led by Trump's daughter and son-in-law and cut down by the President himself, who belittled Bannon in an interview with the New York Post.

The President's comments were described by White House officials as a dressing-down and warning shot, though one Bannon friend, reflecting on them, likened Bannon to a terminally ill family member who had been moved into hospice care.


The man not long ago dubbed the "shadow president" - with singular influence over Trump's agenda and the workings of the federal government - is struggling to keep his job with his portfolio reduced and his profile damaged, according to interviews with 21 of Trump's aides, confidants and allies. Some colleagues described Bannon as a stubborn recluse who had failed to build a reservoir of goodwill within the West Wing.

"Bannon is a brilliant pirate who has had a huge impact," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter. "But White Houses, in the end, are like the US Navy - corporate structures and very hard on pirates."

For now, at least, Bannon may survive the turmoil, and he and other White House staffers are striving to be on their best behaviour after their infighting earned them a scolding by the President last weekend.

The United States has attacked a Syrian air base with 50-60 cruise missiles in response to a chemical weapons attack it blames on President Bashar Assad.

But the mercurial President has a long history of turning quickly on subordinates, and the political hit in the New York Post was trademark Trump. The President said Bannon was hardly the Svengali of his caricature, but rather "a good guy" who "was not involved in my campaign until very late". Bannon's associates were caught off guard. Some interpreted them as a paternal "love tap" by Trump to assert his own dominance, while others worried they amounted to an indirect firing. Bannon himself was humbled, people close to him said.

In a second interview, with the Wall Street Journal, Trump referred to Bannon as "a guy who works for me" - and pointedly noted, as he did with the New York Post, that he was his own "strategist".

Trump also is increasingly embracing more mainstream policy positions championed by daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner and their allies, including ascendant National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, instead of Bannon's brand of combative nationalism.

On Thursday alone, Trump flipped from Bannon-favoured positions on issues such as the Export-Import Bank and Chinese currency manipulation, alarming some Bannon aides who feared their wing had lost influence with the President.

Attorney-General Jeff Sessions dismissed the suggestion that Bannon's worldview, which he shares, was being sidelined. "I'm an admirer of Steve Bannon and the Trump family and they've been supportive of what we're doing," he said. The Attorney-General in recent days has unveiled tough policies aimed at illegal immigration and drug crimes. "I've not felt any pushback against me or on anything I've done or advocated."

Thomas Barrack, a close Trump friend who chaired his inaugural committee, spent Wednesday and Thursday in Washington with the President and his senior team. He characterised the ideological disagreement between Bannon and others as natural and even healthy. "The way this president makes decisions is he encourages different points of view from different people, and he curates those and comes up with his own positions. He is in command and control."

Trump and his team are scrambling to notch accomplishments that they can hail at the 100-day mark later this month and to impose new discipline on a White House that has been riven by disorder and suspicion since Trump took office.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court and sworn in this week, marking a significant victory for Trump's conservative base. But the absence of any other major legislative achievement and the public failure of a healthcare overhaul has gnawed at the President, and other White House advisers have assigned partial blame to Bannon.

Bannon's effective demotion began last week when he was removed from the National Security Council's principals committee. But his real problems began much earlier. Trump bristled at the media depiction of Bannon as a puppeteer, punctuated by the mid-February Time magazine cover labelling Bannon "The Great Manipulator". Trump fashions himself as the leading man - the protagonist of every story in which he stars - and was content to have Bannon as his sidekick, but he did not welcome the competition for top billing.

Bannon further imperiled his standing with the President by getting crosswise with Kushner, officials said. The two men were close during last year's campaign. But in the White House, Bannon went to war with the business leaders Kushner helped recruit to the Administration - Cohn and others, including Dina Powell, the senior economic counsellor and deputy national security adviser. Bannon privately derided them as "globalists" and "Democrats,", even though Powell worked in George W. Bush's Administration.

Bannon's supporters believe he is an essential conduit between Trump and his nationalist, populist base.

But other Trump loyalists dispute the idea that Bannon is the id of the Trump movement, pointing out that Trump has been advocating some of the same populist positions for decades and for more than a year on the campaign trail before Bannon's hiring last northern summer.

The internal name-calling

You know fissures in the White House are serious and knives are out when people start giving one another derogatory nicknames.

Which is where we stand today. So we thought it high time they be ranked. As always, these rankings are from worst to best and are not to be questioned.

9. Globalist Gary
Lazy alliteration. It is for former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, the head of the National Economic Council. In text messages, StephenBannon allies use the shorthand CTC (Carbon Tax Cohn) or a globe emoji..

8. The New Yorkers
We get it; they are from New York, where Wall Street is. Guess what? So is President Donald Trump.

7. The Nationalists
It's not a good derogatory nickname if the other side would gladly use it for itself.

5. (tie) Breitbart
It's succinct and reminds me of all those 1990s-era sports franchises who decided nicknames ending in "s" were no longer preferable: the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat, the Colorado Avalanche, the Minnesota Wild and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 90s were fun.

5. (tie) Goldman
This is the Bannon side's answer to "Breitbart". It's also nice and succinct and not overly pluralistic. But some have also noted that it could be seen as having anti-Semitic undertones. Oh, and Bannon himself used to work for Goldman Sachs, so . . . not quite ideal.

4 CTC (Carbon Tax Cohn)
This refers to Cohn having met former Secretary of State James Baker and others about a carbon tax proposal. It's insider-y, yes, but it's so obscure that it's memorable.

3. The Democrats
No points for creativity here, but this nickname epitomises the disdain in this internal White House battle. The opponents of Bannon aren't just "cucks" or "RINOs;" they're simply "the Democrats".

2. The Bannonites
This has the benefit of rolling off the tongue, and the "-ite" suffix sounds vaguely religious - which is kind of the point.

1. A globe emoji
As Prince demonstrated so capably, your nickname doesn't actually have to be an actual word. And this gets the Bannonites' point across far more succinctly and creatively than any of the above.