In another series of executive orders on Saturday, Pres. Donald Trump restructured the National Security Council (NSC) and created a position on it for senior aide and former Breitbart.com CEO Stephen K. Bannon.
The Washington Post reported Saturday night that in addition to installing Bannon on the council, Trump ordered the Pentagon to come up with a strategy to defeat ISIS and conducted his first phone call with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin and conducted calls with other heads of state.
The Post reported that Bannon has been given a regular seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee, which will include the nation’s highest ranking security officials, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State.
Unlike previous presidential administrations, Trump’s Saturday memo specified that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs will only attend principals committee meetings that pertain to their specific “responsibilities and expertise.”
The changes, Trump said, will bring “a lot of efficiency and, I think, a lot of additional safety.”
Bannon — who famously compared himself to Star Wars villain Darth Vader, former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and Satan — has already exerted a heavy hand over the formulation Trump’s foreign policy agenda, aides say, and is extending his influence ever deeper into the administration’s workings.
The former Goldman Sachs executive presided over the expansion of Breitbart.com from a fringe right-wing web community to a sprawling hub of the so-called “alt-right,” a collection of white nationalists, racists, anti-feminists and neo-Nazis.
On the council, Bannon will be privy to some of the country’s most highly classified military and intelligence secrets. Typically membership on the council is reserved to the president and key administrators and is, as columnist and author Dan Froomkin said Saturday night “off limits to political hacks.”
This week, Bannon gave a contentious interview to the New York Times in which he urged the media to “keep its mouth shut and listen” and stop reporting negative stories about the new administration.
Aside from Putin, Trump spoke on Saturday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzu Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French Pres. Francois Hollnde and others.
The call with Putin was described as “positive” and “congratulatory.”