Steve Bannon will assume a seat on the National Security Council after an executive order signed by Donald Trump on Saturday. The order came as part of an effort to reshuffle and restructure the council, which usually is made up of members of the president’s Cabinet and the military, among others.
The order weakened the roles played by the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, removing them as permanent members of the council’s principals committee. An administration official clarified on Sunday that the Joint Chiefs were still invited to attend all council meetings.
Bannon is the former executive chairman of the right-wing Breitbart News and the president’s chief strategist. He has played a major role in the week-old Trump administration, helping the president to draft a flurry of executive orders including major changes in immigration policy. Now he will be part of the core group, led by retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, tasked with advising Trump on national security and foreign affairs.
“The security threats facing the United States in the 21st century transcend international boundaries,” Trump’s order said. “Accordingly, the United States Government’s decision-making structures and processes to address these challenges must remain equally adaptive.”
Susan Rice, who formerly served as national security adviser to President Obama, tweeted her reaction to the news:
Rice even went so far as to retweet a civilian user’s take: “Trump loves and trusts the military so much he just kicked them out of the National Security Council and put in a Nazi in their place.”
ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about Rice’s comments on Sunday morning. Spicer said Trump’s installment of Bannon would help make the council “less bureaucratic” and “more focused on providing the president with the intelligence he needs.”
“He is a former naval officer,” Spicer said of Bannon. “He’s got a tremendous understanding of the world and the geopolitical landscape that we have now.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who serves as chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, took a different view. In an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, McCain described the inclusion of Bannon as a “radical departure from any National Security Council in history.” He also expressed his “concern” over the diminishment of roles of traditional members of the council.