Steve Bannon, the chief strategist for Donald Trump, who first rose to prominence as publisher of online right-wing news and opinion site Breitbart News, is joining one of the most powerful institutions in the U.S. government.
Over the weekend, President Trump appointed him to the “principals committee” of National Security Council, which advises the president on all security policy.
Trump simultaneously removed the Director of National Intelligence (a position currently unfilled pending approval of nominee Dan Coats, former Republican senator from Indiana) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, from the principals committee.
Bannon left his position as executive chairman of Breitbart News in August of last year to run Trump’s campaign for president, replacing the real-estate mogul and reality TV star’s previous chief strategist, Paul Manafort.
As chief strategist, he was credited with reinvigorating Trump’s flailing presidential campaign and crafting its unorthodox and ultimately successful game plan. Bannon deliberately courted controversy in order to win media coverage and raise the candidate’s profile. At the same time, he used Trump’s Twitter account and sympathetic online outlets, like Breitbart, to counter criticism and present the candidate’s own version of events.
Since the election, Bannon has continued to play a central role guiding the Trump administration’s first moves, including the issuing of controversial executive orders to build a wall on the border with Mexico and turn away travelers from seven countries with Muslim majorities.
Bannon’s appointment to the NSC took many observers by surprise, in light of his apparent lack of expertise in national security matters. No previous president has appointed a purely political operative to the NSC.
A number of politicians expressed concern about Bannon’s appointment, including some Republican grandees.
Sen. John McCain, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated: “I am worried about the National Security Council. Who are the members of it and who are the permanent members? The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history.”