Steve Bannon was taken off Trump's National Security Council and everyone breathed a massive sigh of relief.
The former chairman of right wing news group Breitbart Steve Bannon has been removed from his position on the National Security Council (NSC).
The body of military leaders, cabinet heads, and intelligence officials advises the President on all matters pertaining to national security, and traditionally has been chaired by President.
Statutory attendees include the President, Vice President, and the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Energy.
The council is led by the ‘principals committee’, which coordinates interagency work for the NSC. In the past the regular attendees of the principals committee have been the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the White House Chief of Staff, the Directors of National Intelligence and Central Intelligence, the Homeland Security advisor, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the US ambassador to the United Nations.
And then Steven Bannon was added on 27 January 2017.
Unheard of appointment
The fact Bannon is to be removed has been greeted with relief. The idea that ‘politics’ stops at the water’s edge, while untrue, meant that many were shocked in January when the partisan appointee Bannon was made a member of the council.
Moreover Bannon’s addition was done at the expense of the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both have been restored to the principals committee as regular attendees, as have the Energy Secretary, CIA Director, and the UN ambassador.
The neutering of this royal favourite was reportedly done by the president’s national security advisor Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster who baulked at the presence of a political advisor in the White House Situation Room.
An anonymous White House source is quoted in the New York Times as saying Bannon resisted the move, even threatening resignation. This was denied by persons close to Bannon.
Karl Rove, a political advisor to president George W. Bush was an ‘invitee’ of some NSC meetings, but even he said it was ‘wrong’ for Bannon to have been made a permanent member of the principals committee.
Relief about Bannon’s removal has also been expressed on social media, as has schadenfreude at his dismissal.
Every president since the NSC was created in 1947 has reorganised the body during their first days in office.
On 27 January Trump issued National Security Presidential Memo 2 (NSPM-2) which among other thinks placed Bannon on the principals committee and as an invitee to the whole council. On April 4 the president issues NSPM-4, revising his earlier memo.
In addition removing Bannon, NSPM-4 appears to return to a system used under president Obama where the Homeland Security advisor’s power to convene the principals committee and decide its agenda is subordinate to the will of the national security advisor.
Under Trump’s first stab at organising the NSC the McMaster and the homeland security advisor Tom Bossert had greater parity.
Allies of Bannon claimed he was only there to 'keep an eye' on the first national security advisor Michael Flynn, who was forced from office after it transpired he had mislead Vice President Mike Pence and the White House regarding his dealings with Russia.
According to analysis by Lawfare blog of NSPM-4:
Bannon’s removal from the PC [Principals Committee], coupled with the removal of his enumerated invitation to attend NSC meetings in Section A, formally terminates Bannon’s role in the decision-making process of the NSC, as both participant and observer.
The return of traditional hierarchies and senior roles for members of the intelligence and military communities is being seen as an establishment victory over the anti-establishment Bannon, in the less than a 100 days into president Trump's term of office.