In a shakeup by President Trump, top White House political strategist Steve Bannon has been removed from the National Security Council’s principals committee, which is comprised of top military service chiefs and intelligence agency heads. Bannon, who never should have been on the committee in the first place, was removed via an executive order that restored the traditional White House balance of keeping political appointees out of the military and intelligence chain of command.
The decision suggests that Bannon’s still-substantial power in the White House is being restrained and limited—though public statements by Bannon and the White House are offering other excuses. Bannon, the former executive chairman of the far-right Breitbart News, was elevated by Trump to the principals committee at the start of his presidency. The move was sharply criticized by Congress and foreign policy experts.
The decision was made by Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an unnamed White House official. Bannon was put on the principals committee—where he never attended a meeting—in part to watch Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has since left in disgrace, Bloomberg reported, also citing an unnamed White House official.
In a statement reported by the Journal, Bannon reverted to his Breitbart conspiracy theory mode, predictably blaming not only the Obama administration for his ouster, but pointing fingers at Susan Rice, the latest Obama administration figure the far-right is seeking to ensnare in its change-the-topic defense of Trump’s campaign contacts with Russia. “Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration,” Bannon’s statement said. “I was put on to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General McMaster has returned the NSC to its proper function.”
What this means is that the so-called deep state, or Washington institutions that endure throughout changes of administrations, like the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, are reasserting their power by pushing political operatives like Bannon back into a more limited sphere of influence. It means he will not have equal say in military and intelligence agency analysis and decision-making.