Trump re­moves Ban­non from Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVE BOYER

In a re­ver­sal, Pres­i­dent Trump re­moved chief strate­gist Stephen Ban­non on Wed­nes­day from a per­ma­nent seat on the White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and re­stored top in­tel­li­gence and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials to reg­u­lar po­si­tions on the NSC.

The pres­i­dent with­drew Mr. Ban­non from the prin­ci­pals’ com­mit­tee, the main pol­i­cy­mak­ing group for na­tional se­cu­rity, less than three months af­ter his ap­point­ment to the post had raised crit­i­cism about po­ten­tial politi­ciza­tion of the NSC.

The change was sought by new Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R. McMaster, who took over the job last month for the fired Michael Flynn.

In the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion, Mr. Trump also up­graded the sta­tus of Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair­man Gen. Joseph F. Dun­ford Jr. to “reg­u­lar at­ten­dees” of the prin­ci­pals’ com­mit­tee, re­vers­ing an­other ear­lier de­ci­sion. And he down­graded the role of Home­land Se­cu­rity ad­viser Tom Bossert on the NSC, ac­cord­ing to a pres­i­den­tial mem­o­ran­dum.

Mr. Ban­non said he was re­moved from the NSC be­cause it was no longer in dan­ger of be­ing “op­er­a­tional­ized,” as he as­serted had been the case un­der former Obama Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san E. Rice. He said Mr. McMaster “has re­turned the NSC to its proper func­tion.”

“Su­san Rice op­er­a­tional­ized the NSC dur­ing the last ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Mr. Ban­non said in a state­ment. “I was put on to en­sure that it was de-op­er­a­tional­ized.”

Mr. Ban­non’s state­ment sug­gested that he had been put on the NSC to mon­i­tor Mr. Trump’s first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Mr. Flynn. The pres­i­dent fired Mr. Flynn in Fe­bru­ary af­ter he ac­knowl­edged mis­lead­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence about the ex­tent of his con­tacts with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion.

Ms. Rice has resur­faced promi­nently this week to de­fend her­self against ac­cu­sa­tions that she “un­masked” Trump of­fi­cials who were men­tioned in clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence doc­u­ments while she was work­ing at the White House. She said such “un­mask­ings” in­ter­nally are rou­tine, and de­nied that she leaked the iden­ti­ties of Trump as­so­ci­ates whose names were later men­tioned in press re­ports as hav­ing their con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sian of­fi­cials caught up in U.S. sur­veil­lance.

It was the sec­ond sig­nif­i­cant staff shakeup in the White House in two weeks. White House Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh an­nounced her res­ig­na­tion last week to help build sup­port for the pres­i­dent’s agenda with out­side groups; she was also de­scribed as frus­trated with dys­func­tion in the West Wing.

Mr. Ban­non’s in­clu­sion in the prin­ci­pals com­mit­tee at the start of Mr. Trump’s pres­i­dency drew crit­i­cism from some out­side the White House as a po­ten­tial for po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence on the NSC.

White House of­fi­cials say Mr. Ban­non will still be able to at­tend NSC meet­ings — he re­port­edly had at­tended only one — and that the move doesn’t change his sta­tus as one of the pres­i­dent’s most in­flu­en­tial ad­vis­ers.

While the White House por­trayed Mr. Ban­non’s shift as an ef­fort to en­sure de­politi­ciza­tion of na­tional se­cu­rity, some Democrats said he should not have had a seat on the NSC in the first place.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, com­mented on Twit­ter, “Ban­non says he was put on NSC to ‘de-op­er­a­tionilize’ it. Think the word he was look­ing for was ‘dys­func­tion­al­ize.’ Mis­sion ac­com­plished.”

House Demo­cratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Mary­land said Mr. Trump’s ini­tial de­ci­sion to give Mr. Ban­non a per­ma­nent spot on the NSC “put pol­i­tics ahead of na­tional se­cu­rity.”

“His re­moval was long over­due,” Mr. Hoyer said.

Rep. Eli­jah E. Cummings of Mary­land, the top Demo­crat on the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, said the re­moval of Mr. Ban­non from the NSC came a few days af­ter com­mit­tee Democrats asked the White House to re­veal the names of all pres­i­den­tial staffers in­volved in deal­ings with House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes.

The Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can vis­ited the White House last month as part of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Pres­i­dent Trump’s claims that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion con­ducted sur­veil­lance on Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials.

“One key ques­tion is whether Mr. Ban­non was in­volved in any way with the deal­ings be­tween NSC staffers and Chair­man Nunes or his trip to the White House,” Mr. Cummings said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Stephen Ban­non was re­moved from the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil af­ter com­plet­ing what he called a “de-op­er­a­tionl­ize” au­dit.

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