Key West Wing colleagues believe Bannon is an instigator of leaks targeting National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The stories have been driven by Breitbart News, where Bannon was executive chairman before joining Trump’s presidential campaign as chief executive in August. On Thursday, Trump backed McMaster as “our friend.”

Sources close to Trump say he was irritated about Bannon’s extensive cooperation with a book by Bloomberg Businessweek’s Josh Green, “Devil’s Bargain,” with a cover that gave Bannon equal billing with Trump.

This was a rerun of one of the key factors that put the chief strategist in Trump’s doghouse months ago: a TIME magazine cover dubbing Bannon “THE GREAT MANIPULATOR.”