House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi charged Thursday that America does not become less safe because of refugees coming to the country but by appointing a "white supremacist" to the Trump administration's National Security Council.
The White House announced over the weekend changes to the National Security Council under President Donald Trump's administration — including the inclusion of chief strategist Steve Bannon who will be able to attend all NSC and principals committee meetings.
While it isn't completely unprecedented for a presidential adviser to sit on the council — Edwin Meese joined the council under former President Ronald Reagan — it certainly is unusual due to his highly political nature and lack of national security experience.
According to Kelly Magsamen, who served on the NSC under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Bannon's inclusion on the council is the first time a president's chief political strategist will be able to attend the NSC meetings.
As David Rothkopf, author of a history on the NSC, told the Guardian, Bannon's lack of national security experience makes his placement on the council a "radical" move.
Bannon's addition to the council sparked outrage among many, including Pelosi who slammed the former Breitbart executive during her weekly press briefing Thursday.
Pelosi told reporters that the "values" promoted during Thursday's annual National Prayer Breakfast do not align with Trump's policies, particularly his executive order that temporarily halts immigration from refugees and some visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority countries.
"The values expressed by many people at the prayer breakfast as they led us in prayer were in stark contrast with the president's unconstitutional, immoral and dangerous ban on refugees and citizens of Muslim countries coming to the United States," Pelosi said. "The president's cruel and reckless ban makes America less safe."
But the California Democrat took it a step further as she argued Thursday that Bannon's presence on the NSC is "what's making America less safe."
"It's a stunning thing that a white supremacist, Bannon, would be a permanent member of the National Security Council and dismissing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence as permanent members," Pelosi said.
According to the Washington Post, the director of national intelligence and the Joint Chiefs chairman are not automatically included in the principals committee meetings under the Trump administration's organization of NSC.
Magsamen wrote in a piece for the Atlantic that while not including those two people automatically on the principals committee meetings isn't entirely unprecedented, it is "bizarre" in a post-9/11 U.S.
So this move remains bizarre given the nature of the national-security challenges America faces and President Trump’s own stated priorities. In fact, I can’t think of a single top national-security issue today that doesn’t require the president to have military and intelligence expertise (not to mention well-developed and considered options)—including ISIS, North Korea, China, and Iran. Given Trump’s recent treatment and open distrust of the U.S. intelligence community, it is hard not to read this as yet another worrying signal of his intent. Alternatively, it might be a power play by National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. Surely Flynn will find it is in his interest to include the chairman and the DNI in most if not all PC meetings. Nobody wants to serve up a policy or decision to the president that doesn’t benefit from military and intelligence expertise. Right?
Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, who Trump selected for the job of director of national intelligence, has not formally taken over the role. Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2015.
Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) also said he has qualms about Bannon's involvement with the NSC.
"I am worried about the National Security Council, who are the members of it and who are the permanent members of it," McCain said Sunday on CBS. "The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history."
And Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), a former 2016 Democratic presidential contender, tweeted Monday that Bannon's inclusion is "dangerous" and called for his removal.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) introduced legislation Wednesday that would kick Bannon off the NSC if passed. Murphy's bill ensures that no one whose "primary or predominant responsibility is political in nature" could be with the agency.