Steve Bannon gets the boot: Donald Trump removes top adviser from National Security Council

One of president's most trusted players no longer serves in a key White House security post

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published April 5, 2017 4:31PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Amid allegations that top White House strategist Stephen Bannon has repeatedly misled President Donald Trump on critical foreign policy matters, the man who formerly ran Breitbart has been booted from his seat on the National Security Council, according to news reports.

Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that Trump "reorganized" the council of top military and intelligence advisers to remove his top political adviser, reversing one of the most controversial decisions of Trump's young administration. Other reporters have also cited the downgrade — perhaps the most dramatic shake-up at the White House since Mike Flynn resigned in February as national security adviser.

The White House is already out with damage control on the news. One senior White House source told journalists that Bannon had been put on the National Security Council only as a check on Flynn. Now that Flynn has left, Bannon is apparently no longer needed on the council.

In January Bannon had been elevated to a position on the National Security Council's principals committee while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and director of national intelligence had been removed from it. But according to a regulatory filing released on Wednesday, both the Joint Chiefs of Staff's chairman, Joseph Dunford, and the intelligence director, Dan Coats, now have roles on the principals committee and are again “regular attendees.” Bannon will retain his national security clearance, however, according to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs.

The move comes as new polling has shown that Bannon is even less popular than Trump, who is viewed unfavorably by more Americans than any other president at this point in his term. A Quinnipiac poll released this week found that just 11 percent of those surveyed have a favorable opinion of Bannon, while 45 percent said they viewed him unfavorably.

The former Goldman Sachs executive turned conservative media financier has been a lightning rod of controversy since joining the Trump campaign, and his elevation to the National Security Council riled national security experts on both sides of the aisle. Bannon has referred to himself as a "Leninist" with a stated goal of destroying the so-called administrative state by eliminating federal regulations and moving power to state governments.

Last month Democrats in Congress introduced legislation that would have prevented Bannon from participating in National Security Council meetings.

While it was not immediately clear if Bannon's removal from his coveted seat on the council represents a major split between him and Trump, a Wednesday New York Times report suggested that the right-wing agitator may have been feeding the president faulty information to further his ideological agenda — that was perhaps counter to U.S. interests.

Another new member of the National Security Council and top Asia policymaker in Trump's administration, Matthew Pottinger, the Times reported, watched in frustration as Bannon and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, "complained to [Trump] that China was deliberately depressing its currency, which undercuts American goods." But as the Times noted, China has actually allowed its currency to rise.

Wednesday's restructuring also resulted in the departure of Trump's homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, from the principals committee but he can be added to it at the discretion of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, according to Bloomberg; McMaster was given responsibility for setting the agenda for meetings of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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National Security Council President Donald Trump Steven Bannon White House