Celebrations erupted in the liberal intelligentsia and the mainstream media as news broke out yesterday that US President Donald Trump allegedly removed Assistant to the President and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council (NSC). Bannon, who has earned a reputation of executing economic nationalist agenda of Trump, was appointed to the NSC in February and had caused a lot of heartburn in the liberal establishment. So, jubilation was not unexpected when the mediapersons thought that Bannon was being demoted. The story filled their hearts with joy.
Only it wasn’t entirely true. Bannon wasn’t removed from the NSC but the council’s principals committee. He would continue to attend the council’s meetings.
Clarification for my colleagues: Bannon wasn't removed from the NSC, only from the NSC principals committee. He still attends NSC meetings.— David Martosko (@dmartosko) April 5, 2017
As far as the shakeup in the principals committee is concerned, the changes are much more fundamental than just being about Bannon. Earlier, it was not mandatory for the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attend all the meetings of the NSC but only when relevant. Now, apart from these two, CIA Director, Secretary of Energy and US Representative to the UN would also have a permanent seat in the council’s principals committee.
The New York Times reported that "Bannon resisted the move, even threatening at one point to quit if it went forward... Bannon’s camp denied that he had threatened to resign and spent the day spreading the word that the shift was a natural evolution, not a signal of any diminution of his outsize influence."
His allies said privately that Mr. Bannon had been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, a retired three-star general who lasted just 24 days before being forced out for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about what he had discussed with Russia’s ambassador. With Mr. Flynn gone, these allies said, there was no need for Mr. Bannon to remain, but they noted that he had kept his security clearance.
In a statement, Bannon said:
Susan Rice operationalized the N.S.C. during the last administration. I was put on the N.S.C. with General Flynn to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General McMaster has returned the N.S.C. to its proper function.
Bannon was of course referring to Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, who is under fire after media reports emerged hinting she might have tried to use intelligence on Trump and his advisers as a political weapon. By de-operationalising NSC, he perhaps meant purging the council of political intelligence and focusing only on the intelligence aspects that concern with matters of national security.
It seems, Bannon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, much to the chagrin of the mainstream media and liberal establishment. The journalists should do their research properly instead of erupting in acts of premature celebration on receiving half-truth. They have been played. It’s a big setback to their reputation.