National security experts and media figures denounced President Donald Trump’s “dangerous” decision to give his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, a prominent role on the National Security Council. Bannon is an extremist anti-Semite who formerly ran the white nationalist “alt-right” website Breitbart.com.
Trump Gives Stephen Bannon A Seat On National Security Council
As Bannon Is Elevated To National Security Council, Director Of National Intelligence And Chairman Of Joint Chiefs Of Staff Downgraded. On January 28, President Donald Trump signed a presidential memo restructuring the National Security Council (NSC) to give Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, “a regular seat on the principals committee -- the meetings of the most senior national security officials.” In the same memo, Trump downgraded the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who “will sit on the principals committee only when the issues to be discussed pertain to their ‘responsibilities and expertise.’ In the previous two administrations,” The Washington Post notes, “both were included as regular attendees.”
President Trump on Saturday ordered the Pentagon to devise a strategy to defeat the Islamic State and restructured the National Security Council to include his controversial top political adviser as he forged a partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin in their first official phone call.
Counseling Trump in the effort will be Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist whose influence inside the administration is expanding far beyond politics. In a separate presidential memo, Trump reorganized the National Security Council to, along with other changes, give Bannon a regular seat on the principals committee — the meetings of the most senior national security officials, including the secretaries of defense and state.
That memo also states that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will sit on the principals committee only when the issues to be discussed pertain to their “responsibilities and expertise.” In the previous two administrations, both were included as regular attendees.
The White House thinks the changes will make the NSC more adaptive to modern threats. Trump said the changes would bring “a lot of efficiency and, I think, a lot of additional safety.”
The changes affirm the ascent of Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart, a conservative website that is popular with white nationalists, who has emerged as Trump’s political consigliere and the keeper of the president’s populist flame. [The Washington Post, 1/28/17]
Bannon Is An Anti-Semite Who Used To Run White Nationalist “Alt-Right” Website. Before becoming Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, Bannon ran Breitbart.com, the white nationalist website that has embraced the “extremist fringe” and regularly pushes “racist ideas.” Bannon himself, an alleged anti-Semite, once described Breitbart as the “platform of the alt-right.” During Bannon’s tenure at Breitbart, the site published a series of anti-Semitic posts. Breitbart staffers allege that Trump, with Bannon’s cooperation, paid the website for favorable news coverage during the presidential campaign. [Media Matters, 8/17/16; 11/13/16]
National Security Experts, Media Figures Decry Bannon’s “Insane,” “Truly Dangerous” Appointment To NSC
CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto: This “Unprecedented” Move “Raises Questions About Whose Voice Are Going To Be Heard Most Prominently.” CNN’s chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto called it “unprecedented” to have, as CNN host Jake Tapper put it, “such a partisan political figure” on the NSC. Sciutto noted that Bannon is “not Senate confirmed,” unlike the chairman of the joint chiefs and the director of national intelligence, and said that Bannon’s new role “raises questions about whose voices are going to be heard most prominently for the key national security decisions of this country.” From the January 29 edition of CNN’s State of the Union:
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): Another executive order, President Trump rejiggered the National Security Council, putting Steve Bannon, the former publisher of Breitbart, on the National Security Council. Is it odd to have such a partisan political figure on the National Security Council?
JIM SCIUTTO: Certainly unprecedented. This started, this principals meeting started back in [the] George H.W. Bush administration, and since then you’ve always had the chairman of the joint chiefs, you’ve had at the time the CIA director, since replaced by the director of national intelligence in there. In the current iteration of this, they will come in when necessary but not as regular members. But I should also note that you're putting in someone who is not Senate confirmed -- Bannon, the adviser, and taking out two people, the chairman of the joint chiefs and the director of national intelligence, who are Senate confirmed. Again, it raises questions about whose voices are going to be heard most prominently for the key national security decisions of this country. [CNN, State of the Union, 1/29/17]
Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf: “I’ve Studied NSC My Entire Adult Life. Putting Bannon On It And Making DNI And Joint Chiefs Optional Is Lunacy. Shows Zero Comprehension.”
Rothkopf: “Bannon Doesn’t Have The Qualifications To Be A TSA Screener Much Less To Be WH Counselor...Even Less Still To Serve On NSC.”
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: “Replacing The DNI And The Joint Chiefs Chairman For Bannon Is Beyond Comprehension.”
The Atlantic's Norman Ornstein: “Trump Is Declaring War On The Joint Chiefs … This Is Truly Dangerous. It Cannot Stand.”
The Atlantic’s James Fallows: “Nothing Like This Has Happened Before. Ever.”
Fox News Contributor Mo Elleithee: “Reminder: Bannon Once Called Himself A ‘Leninist’ Whose Goal Is To ‘Destroy The State.’ He’s Now On The NSC.”
MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “Google ‘Aleksandr Dugin’ To Learn More About Bannon's Leninist, Ugly Philosophy. Is He Now Running U.S. National Security Policy?”
Observer’s John Schindler: “Yesterday’s WH Recasting Of The NSC … Really Amounts To A Coup.”
Mother Jones’ David Corn: “Last Summer Bannon Said He Wanted The Website He Published To Be A ‘Platform’ For White Nationalists. Now He Is On Trump’s NSC.”
NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof: “This Is Scary.”
New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza: “I Know It’s A High Bar, But The Most Insane Story” Is Bannon’s Appointment To NSC.
NY Times' Beijing Bureau Chief Edward Wong Compares Bannon NSC Appointment To Chinese Communist Rule.
Former Obama NSC Spokesman Tommy Vietor: “Bob Gates Flipped Out When [David] Axelrod And [Robert] Gibbs Attended A Couple Of NSC Meetings. Now Political Hack Steve Bannon Has A Standing Invite.”