Steve Bannon made a name for himself shepherding the alt-right into the American political mainstream, but recent events have made his position far less stable than in 2017, when he was at the pinnacle of his political career.

Facing fraud lawsuits and a hostile Republican establishment, Donald Trump's political strategist nevertheless holds influence in the right both in the U.S. and abroad. His future may largely ride on how well Trump and the alt-right can temper their worst impulses.

Bannon, 67, rose to political prominence at Breitbart News, a “political platform for the alt-right.” The online site, which was launched in 2009 by anti-Muslim pundit Andrew Breitbart, eventually saw Bannon serve as executive chairman starting in 2012. Breitbart News eventually became an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s presidential bid.

After failing to effectively make Sarah Palin the face of the Republican party in 2012, Bannon would turn his full attention to Trump and manage the 2016 campaign as his chief executive officer. After Trump’s meteoric victory, however, Bannon found institutional politics more difficult than outsider bomb-throwing. 

He took a role as a senior counselor but left after only eight months, and in 2018 was disowned by Trump altogether after critical comments of Trump in the Michael Wolff book “Fire and Fury.” 

Former aide Steve Bannon was one of 73 people pardoned by US President Donald Trump on his last day in office Former aide Steve Bannon was one of 73 people pardoned by US President Donald Trump on his last day in office Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON

A subsequent tour of Europe found mixed success, perhaps unsurprising given European nationalists’ suspicion of foreign political strategists. That wasn’t enough to dampen his ambition of serving as the lynchpin for a global populist movement.

“All I’m trying to be,” he said in a March 2019 interview, “is the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement.”

What could threaten his goals was a brewing legal storm back in the U.S.

In August, Bannon was among those arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering through his Build The Wall charity. Prosecutors alleged he had siphoned hundreds of thousands from Trump supporters eager to fund the wall. 

It wasn’t a great look for a populist, especially given that he was arrested on a 150-foot yacht owned by a Chinese billionaire. Nevertheless, he maintained his goal of being the centerpiece of a global populist movement, saying during his not-guilty plea that “this entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.”

In his final moments in office, Trump would issue a pardon for Bannon, though it could be far from the end of Bannon's legal troubles.

US President Donald Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was arrested in New York US President Donald Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was arrested in New York Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN

Bannon now finds himself in a diminished position, running damage control for an alt-right in decline. He still has influence within the alt-right, weighing in on Trump’s impeachment defense and trying to reign in Rudy Giuliani’s more outlandish claims. With Trump’s stinging electoral defeat and a Republican establishment eager to move on, however, Bannon’s pull outside of the conservative media ecosystem appears limited.

It’s possible he could look abroad. One of Bannon's proteges has stepped in as Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign manager, reports Haaretz, and his dreams of a culturally homogeneous ethnostate appear alive and well in Northern Europe

Back home, things are less certain. Giuliani’s latest attacks on the Lincoln Project have earned him a potential lawsuit, and Bannon could be in the crosshairs as well. He’s been banned from Twitter after suggesting Dr. Anthony Fauci should be beheaded, and the populist movement he fostered seems, for now, to be in decline. 

While Bannon may once again regain a place in conservative politics, it's unclear if he will be part of the political mainstream, as when he was aligned with Palin and Trump.