Trump strategist Steve Bannon removed from National Security Council | News | DW | 05.04.2017
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Trump strategist Steve Bannon removed from National Security Council

Steve Bannon, a chief strategist to US President Donald Trump, has been permanently dropped from the White House National Security Council. His removal comes as part of a wider overhaul of council staff.

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Washington: Bannon off National Security Council

US President Donald Trump overhauled his National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday, dropping chief strategist Steve Bannon.

A new memorandum published by the Federal Register no longer listed Bannon as a member of the NSC's Principals Committee.

Read more: Stephen Bannon: Four facts about the White House's 'Darth Vader'

The move reverses Trump's earlier decision to include Bannon on the council. Bannon was initially placed on the NSC immediately after Trump's inauguration to implement the new president's plan to downsize and streamline the council's operations.

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However, the former editor of the right-wing Breitbart News website was regarded by many to be the driving force behind the White House's more populist policies and unsuitable to play a role in national security matters.

The NSC's powerful Principals Committee, which is namely comprised of secretaries of state and defense, is tasked with advising the president on key security and foreign policy decisions. Trump's decision to grant his political adviser a seat on the committee was a highly unusual move.

'Not needed' after Flynn departure

Vice President Mike Pence said Bannon would continue to play an important role in policy and played down the shake-up as routine.

"This is just a natural evolution to ensure the National Security Council is organized in a way that best serves the president in resolving and making those difficult decisions," Pence said on "Fox News."

Bannon said in a statement he had succeeded in returning the NSC back to its traditional role of coordinating foreign policy rather than running it. He cited President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, for why he advocated a change.

"Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration so I was put on NSC to ensure it was 'de-operationalized.' General McMaster has NSC back to its proper function," he said.

A senior White House official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Reuters news agency that Trump believed Bannon's presence on the NSC was no longer needed following the departure of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Flynn was forced to resign in February after it emerged he had misled the administration about his communication with Russian officials. The official said that Bannon's removal had nothing to do with the revelations surrounding Flynn

Rather, Bannon reportedly struggled to work together with Flynn's successor, H.R. McMaster. The new national security adviser had reportedly told security experts that he felt he was in a battle to the death with Bannon and other White House staff.

A positive step

US Representative Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called the shift in the NSC a positive step that would help McMaster "gain control over a body that was being politicized by Bannon's involvement."

"As the administration's policy over North Korea, China, Russia and Syria continues to drift, we can only hope this shake-up brings some level of strategic vision to the body," he said.

According to Reuters, a number of senior security advisers have chided the Trump administration in recent days over its failure to shape a coherent policy on pressing issues, including Syria and North Korea. The news agency's White House source said that Wednesday's shake up was intended to move the NSC "back to its core function of what it's supposed to do." 

Despite his dismissal from the NSC, AP's White House official told the agency that Bannon would remain one of Trump's closest advisers.

The new memo also elevates the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coates, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Joseph Dunford, to the Principal's Committee.

According to Bloomberg, among those also dropped from the NSC panel alongside Bannon was homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.

dm/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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