Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, has been removed from his permanent seat at the National Security Council, multiple sources tell CNN, moving the council into a more traditional format.
The decision, which one source with knowledge said was made by Trump himself, comes after the President in January authorized the reorganization of the National Security Council to include Bannon as a permanent member of the panel.
In a regulatory filing posted Wednesday, Bannon’s title was removed from the standing list of members of the National Security Council.
Multiple sources looked to minimize the removal. One argued that Bannon was put on the council to ensure that it no longer “micro-managed” foreign policy and was put on a more “operational track.”
Another said Bannon was only on board to oversee former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s work to “de-operationalize” the National Security Council from the broad purview it had under Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. Flynn, after his undisclosed contacts with Russian operatives were revealed through media reports, resigned from the council in February. H.R. McMaster, a United States Army lieutenant general, was named national security adviser later in February.
A source with knowledge of the move said Bannon can “still attend any meeting” where his expertise is needed.
“In all the time he was there, he only attended one principals’ meeting,” the source said. “He is still welcome to attend principal meetings.”
The decision to elevate Bannon in the first place was a controversial one because, at the same time, the order indicated that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would not be regular attendees.
The committee is a Cabinet-level group of agencies focused on national security that was established by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.
Regular members of the Principals Committee will include the secretary of state, the treasury secretary, the defense secretary, the attorney general, the secretary of Homeland Security, the assistant to the President and chief of staff, the assistant to the President and chief strategist, the national security adviser and the Homeland Security adviser.
Former acting CIA chief Michael Morell sharply criticized the move in January, calling it “unprecedented” in an appearance on “CBS This Morning.”
“I have never been to a principals’ meeting where the views of the DNI and the views of the chairman are not relevant,” said Morell, who advised Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president. “Every principals’ meeting starts with an intelligence briefing by the DNI.”
Bannon’s accession also demonstrated the breadth of his influence inside the White House, signaling that the former head of Brietbart News’ influence extended beyond politics and domestic policy.