House bill introduced to remove former Breitbart exec & political operative Steve Bannon from the National Security Council
House Democrats filed a bill earlier this month to remove Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of the right-wing news website Breitbart now serving as President Donald Trump’s “chief strategist”, from the National Security Council.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida) submitted H.R. 804, Protect National Security Council from Political Interference Act of 2017, days after Trump elevated “chief strategist” Bannon as a permanent member of the NSC’s Principals Committee and downgraded the roles of the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff so they could only attend meetings “where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed”.
Trump’s directive, issued on Jan. 28th, also excluded the CIA Director from NSC meetings.
Murphy expressed concerns that the National Security Council’s deliberations and decisions on homeland security, troop deployments, and other foreign and security policy matters would be “contaminated by political considerations” with Bannon’s “unprecedented” appointment.
“I am filing this bill because I believe that President Trump’s directive organizing the NSC breaks from this longstanding, bipartisan tradition of constructing a wall to separate national security policymaking from domestic politics to the greatest extent possible,” said Murphy.
Murphy said H.R. 804 will require that “no individual whose primary or predominant responsibility is political in nature shall regularly attend or participate in the meetings of the NSC or the Principals Committee.” She emphasized that the prohibition barring political operatives from the NSC would apply to all administrations, whether they are Democratic or Republican.
In addition, Murphy’s bill would make clear that “the DNI and the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs, given their importance to national security, should have a standing invitation to attend all PC meetings”.
“At its core, this bill is about fidelity to a deeply American principle—the principle that the service members in our all-volunteer military, the quiet professionals in our intelligence community, and the men and women who protect our homeland should never have their lives disrupted or placed at risk because of a national security policymaking process that is contaminated by partisan politics,” said Murphy.
Bannon’s appointment to the NSC has sparked bipartisan condemnation.
“What is making America less safe is to have a white supremacist named to the National Security Council as a permanent member, while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Director of National Intelligence are told, ‘Don’t call us, we will call you. You are no longer permanent members. We will call you when we need’ whatever judgment they make about when they want them to come back,” said Pelosi.
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) called Bannon’s appointment “a radical departure from any National Security Council in history”.
“[T]he role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been diminished, I understand, with this reorganization. One person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view,” said McCain on CBS Face The Nation.
Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, bluntly stated that Bannon “doesn’t belong” on the NSC.
“Putting aside for a moment Mr. Bannon’s troubling public positions, which are worrisome enough, institutionalizing his attendance threatens to politicize national security decision making,” Mullen wrote in a New York Time editorial.
Mullen explained, “Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the principals committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be candid, nonpartisan deliberation. I fear that it will have a chilling effect on deliberations and, potentially, diminish the authority and the prerogatives to which Senate-confirmed cabinet officials are entitled. They, unlike Mr. Bannon, are accountable for the advice they give and the policies they execute.”