In a move some are calling "unprecedented," President Donald Trump has issued an executive order that issues an "invitation-only" directive to high-ranking national security officials to attend National Security Council meetings, while promoting controversial adviser Steve Bannon to a permanent seat at the table.
The order was signed Saturday, and effectively relegated the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to attendance on the security council's principals committee only when "issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed." Meanwhile, Bannon, former chair of Breitbart News, is welcome to attend any of the NSC meetings.
While the move has some precedent — ABC News notes its similarity to a policy instituted under former President George W. Bush — the inclusion of Bannon to a permanent seat has many criticizing the move and questioning the influence of the often-shocking former media head.
Bannon is characterized by many on the left as a "white nationalist," although he has balked at that description and told CNN in November he calls himself an "economic nationalist."
Bannon has been a target of Democratic criticism since his selection by Trump. Many liberals have pointed to incendiary Breitbart headlines -- items that mock "trannies," labeled Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol a "renegade Jew" and more -- in urging Trump to cut ties with Bannon.He dismissed that criticism, casting it as disappointment from Democrats who expected Trump to lose."They were ready to coronate Hillary Clinton. That didn't happen, and I'm one of the reasons why. So, by the way, I wear these attacks as an emblem of pride," he said.
Bannon, who will now sit in on meetings related to national security with the new executive order, is a native of Virginia, is a Navy veteran, a Harvard graduate and an alum of Goldman Sachs. After working in film production, he met Andrew Breitbart, founder of Breitbart News, and was tapped to chair the media company. Under his direction, Breitbart become one of the most read conservative news sites during the eight years of President Barack Obama's presidency. Critics have accused it of being xenophobic and misogynistic, and associating it with the "alt-right."
His permanent seat at NSC meetings, which hosts the primary group advising the president on national security and foreign affairs, has many wondering just how influential Bannon is within the Trump inner circle.
The NSC is led by lieutenant-general Mike Flynn, one of Trump's most ardent supporters during the election, who also faced criticism for his association with the alternative right when his son used Twitter to help perpetuate a conspiracy theory involving a pizza parlor and Hillary Clinton. Flynn's son was ultimately fired by the transition team.
As for Mr. Bannon, who has called the media the "opposition party" and last week said the press needed to "keep it's mouth shut," he is apparently part of a new vision for national security under Trump.
"The security threats facing the United States in the 21st century transcend international boundaries," Mr Trump's executive order said.