White House

Steve Bannon removed from National Security Council

Chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports

 

President Trump’s controversial chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, was removed from the National Security Council on Wednesday, Fox News confirmed.

Bannon was put on the NSC’s “Principals Committee” as a check on former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn to make sure Flynn carried through with a directive to depoliticize the NSC, a senior administration official told Fox News.

"[Obama administration National Security Adviser] Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration," Bannon said in a statement. "I was put on to ensure that it was de-operationalized. [National Security Adviser] General [H.R.] McMaster has returned the NSC to its proper function."

Bannon only attended one meeting of the Principals Committee and Flynn was fired from his role in mid February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with a Russian official.

With McMaster replacing Flynn, Trump saw no need for Bannon to stay on the committee as a check on Flynn, the official said.

Bannon is still permitted to go to NSC meetings.

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News' Martha MacCallum the move was not a demotion for Bannon.

"They are gonna continue to play important policy roles," Pence said, adding the move was "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."

Bannon's promotion to a regular NSC seat proved to be a contentious move, with detractors questioning why a political adviser was being given a permanent voice on security issues.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released a statement Wednesday soon after the news came out. He called Bannon "wholly unqualified" to have been placed on the NSC in the first place and questioned if House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes had any dealings with Bannon during his investigation of possible surveillance of the Trump team.

"We need to know what in the world is going on," Cummings said.

Wednesday's reconfiguration also promotes the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to “regular attendees.” Those roles had previously been downgraded.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Energy Secretary Rick Perry were also added to the NSC.

Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert also had his role reduced in the shakeup; however, Bossert can still call a meeting of the Homeland Security Council, remains on the Principals Committee and can attend NSC meetings, the administration official said.

Fox News’ John Roberts contributed to this report.