Trump just made an unprecedented, ‘radical’ change to the National Security Council – Business Insider

Donald TrumpGetty Images

President Donald Trump
signed a presidential memorandum Saturday
that removed the
nation’s top military and intelligence advisers as regular
attendees of the National Security Council’s Principals
Committee, the interagency forum that deals with policy issues
affecting national security.

The executive measure established Trump’s chief strategist Steve
Bannon as a regular attendee, whereas the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence will be
allowed to participate only “where issues pertaining to their
responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”

“The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which is a
radical departure from any National Security Council in
history,” Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the
Senate Armed Services Committee, 
said on CBS’
Face the Nation on Sunday.

The one person who is indispensable would be the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view,” McCain added.
“So it’s of concern, this ‘reorganization.'”

John Bellinger, an adjunct senior fellow in International and
National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations and
former legal adviser to the National Security
wrote on Saturday
 that the change
is “unusual.”

“In the Bush administration, Karl Rove would not attend NSC
meetings,” Bellinger said. “According to former Chief
of Staff Josh Bolten, President Bush did not want to
appear, especially to the military, to insert domestic politics
into national security decision-making.”

With his permanent seat at the NSC meetings, Bannon has been
elevated above the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, who was not
offered an open invitation.

“The CIA Director is typically invited to NSC and
Principals Committee meetings,” Bellinger said, though he added
that President Barack Obama’s list of invitees to such meetings
did not include the CIA director.

Steve Bannon
Trump’s executive order on
Saturday established Steve Bannon as a regular member of the
National Security Council’s Principals

AP Photo/Gerald

CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto noted on Sunday
that the move was “certainly unprecedented.”

“You’re putting in someone who is not Senate confirmed and taking
out the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National
who need to be Senate confirmed,” Sciutto
told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “It raises questions about whose voices
will be most prominent about key national-security decisions in
the country.”

Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates told
ABC on Sunday morning
that sidelining the DNI and the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was “a big mistake.”

“Adding people to the NSC never really bothers me,” Gates said,
referring to Bannon’s new role on the committee. “My biggest
concern is that, under law, there are only two statutory advisers
to the National Security Council — the DNI, and the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

“Pushing them out,” Gates said, is “a big mistake. They both
bring perspective, judgment, and experience to bear that every
president — whether they like it or not — finds useful.”

A ‘shadow National Security Council’

The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin
before Trump was sworn in that Bannon, Jared
Kushner, and Reince Priebus comprised an informal “shadow
national security council” that “sits atop the Trump transition
team’s executive committee and has the final say on
national-security personnel appointments.”

Jared Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Priebus
is Trump’s chief of staff.

“Bannon has been working on the long-term strategic vision that
will shape the Trump administration’s overall foreign policy
approach,” Rogin
reported, citing transition officials.
 He “is committed
to working on the buildup of the military and is also interested
in connecting the Trump apparatus to leaders of populist
movements around the world, especially in Europe.”

Prior to joining the Trump campaign, Bannon was the CEO
of the far-right website Breitbart News
— a website known for
its antiestablishment, white-nationalist positions on issues such
as immigration and trade. A week into his presidency, Trump has
already prioritized a number of agenda items that reflect
Bannon’s own nationalist views, including a border wall and a
crackdown on immigration and refugee admissions. He also
claim that “the media is the opposition party.

Breitbart’s role inside the Trump White House is
Sebastian Gorka, an editor for National Security
Affairs at Breitbart who was paid by Trump’s campaign for policy
is expected to join the National Security Council
Julia Hahn, a hardline immigration writer for Breitbart,
will join the administration as a special assistant to the

jared kushner donald trump tiffany
Trump is joined by his daughter Tiffany, left, and son-in-law
Jared Kushner as he speaks during a news conference at the Trump
National Golf Club Westchester, Tuesday, June 7, 2016, in
Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.


The NSC Principals Committee will be chaired by former Lt.
Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, and Tom
Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser. Defense
Secretary James Mattis and Trump’s secretary of state nominee,
Rex Tillerson, have seats on the committee, but they “begin at a
disadvantage,” Rogin said.

They will be “fighting for influence in a team of strong
personalities who are busily carving up issues, making plans and
nurturing already close relationships” with Trump, Rogin wrote,
referring to Bannon, Kushner, and Priebus.

The secretary of energy and director of the Office of Management
and Budget were
also removed
from the committee’s list of “regular members,”
and the deputy secretary of state will no longer be invited to
every committee meeting. The chair of the Council of Economic
Advisers will not be invited even “when issues to be discussed
pertain to their responsibilities and expertise.”

Unilateral moves

Trump already seems to be marginalizing the influence of career
officials with extensive federal experience at the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, the Department of
Defense (DoD) and the Justice Department.

On Saturday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Fox
that he helped draft Trump’s “extreme vetting” executive order
after Trump called him and asked
how to do a “Muslim ban” “legally.”
Officials told CNN that
the order was a unilateral move.

Department of Homeland Security staff, the officials said,
were only allowed to see the order barring refugees from the US
after Trump signed it, and National Security Council lawyers were
prevented from
evaluating it. The State Department and the DoD were also
excluded from the process, NBC

After seeing the order, the DHS interpreted it to mean that green
card holders from the banned countries — who have already been
subjected to intense vetting — would be allowed to reenter the US
from trips abroad. But that interpretation was overruled by the
White House, which later said that green card holders would be
allowed in only on a “case-by-case” basis.

immigrant Hameed Darwish stands with Congresswoman Nydia
Velazquez (R) after being released at John F. Kennedy
International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28,


“The policy team at the White House developed the executive
order on refugees and visas,”
CNN reported
, “and largely avoided the traditional
interagency process that would have allowed the Justice
Department and homeland security agencies to provide operational

As a result, the order was imprecise and open to interpretation —
and legal challenges.

The order “looks like what an intern came up with over a
lunch hour,” an immigration lawyer

Benjamin Wittes,
the editor-in-chief of Lawfare and a senior
fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “My
take is that it is so poorly written that it’s hard to tell the

“The president has created a target-rich environment for
litigation” with the order, Wittes

Lawyers and civil-rights organizations were already challenging
the constitutionality of the ban hours after it was signed,
arguing that the ban violates the Establishment Clause of the
First Amendment by “explicitly disapproving of one religion and
implicitly preferring others.”

Lawyers representing two Iraqi refugees who were detained at John
F. Kennedy airport in New York
filed legal challenges
to the order, and a federal judge in
Brooklyn issued
an emergency ruling
Saturday evening to stay the continued
deportation of travelers.

The ruling, a temporary emergency stay, now allows those who
landed in the US and hold a valid visa to remain. Federal
judges in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Washington also made
emergency rulings on various aspects of the executive


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