President Trump has decided to shake up his National Security Council and to remove his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, from the groups principals committee, as first reported by Bloomberg. Trump has also reportedly decided to downgrade the role of his Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert. Bannon was controversially placed on the committee shortly after Trump’s inauguration.
One senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast that Bannon was "only on [NSC] to babysit [Michael] Flynn" because Trump "was losing faith" in Flynn, and that Bannon "never went to meetings." The official also said that the removal had been planned for a while and that it was "in the works from the day" Bannon met National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Another senior aide told the Beast that "that's [all] spin and CYA, but fine," but mentioned that Bannon still has his security clearance.
Bannon is expected to continue advising Trump on national-security and foreign-policy issues, with a focus on China and the Middle East, per officials with direct knowledge of the situation.
In February, The New York Times reported that President Trump was angry because "he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist [Steve Bannon] a seat on the National Security Council."
Sen. Marco Rubio said on Wednesday, "The president has the right to choose whoever he wants to serve" on the National Security Council.
Sen. Ben Cardin, top Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "I'm would be very pleased if he's not on the National Security Council. My hope is that [Bannon] would have no role in government at all, that he would be completely out. Because I do think that's not the type of advice the president should be receiving in terms of diversity and tolerance."
As of press time, the White House did not respond to emails seeking comment. In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Bannon said, "Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration. I was put on to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General McMaster has returned the NSC to its proper function.”
–Asawin Suebsaeng and Tim Mak