The role of Steve Bannon within the Trump administration became far clearer on Saturday night. After a CNN report indicated that Bannon played a personal role in overruling the Department of Homeland Security to include green card holders in Trump’s immigration ban, news broke related to a new set of executive actions signed by the president on Saturday that gave Bannon “unprecedented” status within the administration.
The executive orders signed by Trump downgraded the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and director of national intelligence while giving Bannon a permanent seat at the National Security Council according to the Chicago Tribune:
Trump’s order also states that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs 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 controversial decision by Trump places the former Breitbart chief at the center of national security decisions alongside the secretaries of defense and state. Bannon was already facing scrutiny and criticism for his influence in the administration and this latest order by Trump isn’t going to help assuage those concerns. Not much is known about Bannon at this point, outside of his career timeline as a Hollywood producer and Goldman Sachs banker (in addition to his role at the controversial, “alt-right” Breitbart) along with some quite unsavory personal details that were revealed in divorce proceedings.
ABC News reports that the “invitation-only status” for the joint chiefs chairman and national intelligence director is a throwback to the Bush administration. The order also separates the Homeland Security Council from the National Security Council, rolling back a decision made by the Obama administration to combine the two. Both might seem like a return to the Bush years, but ABC is quick to note that Bannon’s inclusion is a sharp detour in comparison:
Some have also pointed to comments by Joshua Bolten, the former chief of staff to Bush,and how he recalled the former president specifically demanding that adviser Karl Rove not attend meetings where national security issues were discussed.
“It wasn’t because he didn’t respect Karl’s advice or didn’t value his input,” Bolten said at a national security forum last September. “But the president also knew that the signal he wanted to send to the rest of his administration, the signal he wanted to send to the public, and the signal he especially wanted to send to the military is that the decisions I’m making that involve life and death for the people in uniform will not be tainted by any political decisions.”
While we’ll need to wait to see what effect this has on future national security issues, it is clear that Steve Bannon holds powerful influence over the new administration. It’s something that can’t sit well with critics of Bannon.