Sean Spicer says there’s nothing newsworthy about Steve Bannon being named to the National Security Council, the facts say otherwise

This afternoon, after first noting how may “likes” President Trump’s last web address had gotten on social media, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, seen above waving papers frantically, assured reporters that there was nothing newsworthy in the fact that, through executive action, the President had removed the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the National Security Council, replacing them with his chief White House strategist, the controversial head of the Breitbart News Network, Steve Bannon, the man who has taken credit for bringing the alt-right (read “white nationalism”) into the mainstream.

Insisting that the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were welcome to attend the meetings whenever they liked, and that Trump had just removed them from the list of regular members in recognition of how valuable their time was, Spicer then went on to repeatedly raise and lower two handfuls of highlighted papers, claiming that, if we were to read them, we’d see that the Trump and Obama administrations organized the National Security Council in almost exactly the same way. The language in the two organizing documents, he told reporters, is “100 percent identical, except we add the word ‘also’.” This, as NPR points out in an article that places the two documents side by side, simply is “not true.” The reality is, the Trump administration is drastically changing the National Security Council, politicizing it in a way that’s never been done before. Spicer, when asked about this… when asked why Bannon, a known propagandist, was given a seat at the table… essentially said that Obama had done the same thing with his chief political advisor, David Axelrod. According to Spicer, the Trump administration is just being more honest and transparent about it.

Axelrod, as you might expect, sees things differently. The following is from his op-ed for CNN.

…As a senior adviser to President Obama in 2009, I had the opportunity to witness the fateful deliberations of his National Security Council Principals committee over the strategy the U.S would pursue in the war with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I was not a member of the committee. I did not speak or participate. I sat on the sidelines as a silent observer with [former White House press secretary Robert] Gibbs because we would be called upon to publicly discuss the president’s decision on that critical matter and the process by which he arrived at it.

We knew our presence chagrined some of the principals but, acting on the president’s instructions, we were there to gain a thorough understanding of what would be one of the most important judgments he would make as commander-in-chief. Our access also came with limits. We were barred from some of the most sensitive meetings on the Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review so as not to inhibit discussions. Beyond that, Gibbs and I did not attend regular meetings of the NSC Principals committee or their deputies nor were we invited to weekly meetings on terrorist threats…

In elevating Bannon to sit with the Secretaries of Defense and State and other key national security figures on the NSC principals committee, President Trump has blazed new ground. Bannon will exercise authority no political adviser has had before. He will be a full participant, not an observer, in national security deliberations.

Under the president’s announced structure, Bannon has eclipsed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence on the National Security Council. Indeed, Bannon already has emerged as the president’s most trusted adviser on global affairs, an area in which Trump has little expertise. It was Bannon who guided the drafting of Trump’s controversial immigration order. According to reports, the Secretary of Defense and director of Homeland Security were not consulted; the State Department was caught unawares…

Ten days in, this much is clear: Steve Bannon is playing a role in national security and foreign policy for which there is no precedent. And for better or worse, he already is making an impact.

Thankfully, more members of the press are beginning to focus Bannon and his rapid ascent to power within the Executive branch, as Trump’s inner circle tightens and others get pushed aside. The following is from an article just posted by Politico.

…“He’s telling Trump that he can do everything he said he would do on the campaign trail,” said a person close to the administration.

That’s won Bannon the president’s favor, and endeared him to his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. Rather than telling Trump what he can’t do, Bannon — a self-made multimillionaire whom Trump sees as a peer rather than as an employee, according to people familiar with their relationship — has positioned himself alongside the president as an enemy of the Washington establishment, including the Republican Party.

During the transition, Bannon stayed away from many of the lower-level hiring decisions and avoided staff meetings that others attended, and focused instead on shaping the Cabinet. He was “integral” in the process of selecting Trump’s appointees, one person close to the team said.

Unlike some of Trump’s other advisers, Bannon doesn’t often appear on television or go to Washington dinners. He swears frequently and often dresses more casually than most White House staff, and generally seems most comfortable huddling with Trump privately or standing off to the side during large meetings.

“He has a great understanding of the American public and why Trump won the election, and he tells Trump about what people are really upset about and what they’re really concerned about,” said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And, Giuliani added, “Trump generally agrees with him.”…

Fortunately, though, it looks as though we may have an opportunity to intercede. According to MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter, an obscure law exists that would require Bannon, because he doesn’t fit into an existing category for a seat on the National Security Council, to go through a Senate confirmation hearing before taking his seat at the table. So, while Trump was able, by presidential edict, to bring the controversial Bannon into the White House without the advice and consent of the Senate, it looks as though we might now have an opportunity to ask him, under oath, about his work disseminating fake news at Breitbart, his role in bringing white nationalism into the mainstream, the stories of his anti-semitism, and the allegations of domestic abuse in his past. So, if you have a moment, call your Senators, and ask them to look into 50 U.S. Code § 3021, and the possibility that it could be used to bring Bannon in front of a Senator committee for a confirmation hearing. If my hunch is right, Senators on both sides of the aisle would welcome an opportunity to rein Bannon in, and put the National Security Council back in the hands of the intelligence community… This is important stuff.

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16 Comments

  1. Eel
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    There’s something about Spicer’s face that bothers me. It’s a little unreal. It looks like a human face being projected onto something, like white large mound of mashed potatoes.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Things could get a lot more interesting according to the Palmer Report…

    When Donald Trump decided that fake-news publisher and alt-right nazi Steve Bannon would be his White House Chief Strategist, he presumably chose that role so that the overwhelmingly controversial Bannon wouldn’t have to go through Senate confirmation hearings, which would have been a firestorm for the ages. But now that Trump has subsequently also picked Bannon for the National Security Council, it turns out he’ll be unwittingly feeding Bannon to the Senate wolves after all.

    According to section (a)(6) of federal statute 50 U.S. Code 3021, a civilian like Steve Bannon will in fact need to go through Senate confirmation and approval in order to serve on the National Security Council because he doesn’t fit into any of the five listed pre-approved categories. That obscure law, which has remained obscure because no president has ever tried to put a political hack on the NSC until now, was dug up by MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter late on Monday night. This sets up a remarkable showdown if Trump goes ahead with the Bannon pick, because few in either party have shown any affinity or trust for the guy – and they’ll have limitless material for embarrassing him.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Here’s the link.

    http://www.palmerreport.com/opinion/trump-apparently-didnt-realize-steve-bannon-will-need-senate-confirmation-security-council/1282/

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    “Sometimes we can disagree with the facts.” — Sean Spicer, in his first statement to the press as Press Secretary.

  5. Scott Spielman
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    When the press secretary and/or p.r. flunky essentially says: move along, there’s nothing to see here, it usually means the opposite.

  6. Jean Henry
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Sean Spicer re Yates firing yesterday: “You all ned to get with the pogrom.”

    (ok, he said “program”)

  7. Susan Rice
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Twitter.

    “This is stone cold crazy. After a week of crazy. Who needs military advice or intell to make policy on ISIL, Syria, Afghanistan, DPRK?”

    https://twitter.com/AmbassadorRice/status/825612583159803904

  8. Meta
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Trump’s rapidly tightening inner circle, did you see this New Yorker article?

    “A Dangerously Isolated President”

    On Saturday, the President announced three more executive actions, one of which changed the composition of his National Security Council. Trump reserved one seat on the Council for his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the former chairman of the right-wing Web site Breitbart News, who has no experience in foreign relations. Trump also limited the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence, with a memo that said they will only attend meetings when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” The erasure of the line between national security and Bannon’s politics, which have included an embrace of white nationalism, was deeply troubling. But the exclusion of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence was more surprising. The President can pick anyone he wants for those positions. Trump has nominated the former Indiana senator Dan Coats to be the director of National Intelligence; the term of the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, will expire this year. The President seems to be deliberately tightening the circle around him.

    In the first week of the Trump Presidency, influence has run through a very select group of advisers—maybe as many as half a dozen, maybe as few as two. The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Bannon have consolidated their influence. Kushner, who has spent his brief career running his father’s real-estate empire, reportedly has been told to lead negotiations with Mexico. Kushner was also involved in a discussion with British officials, and denounced the United Kingdom’s support of a United Nations resolution opposing Israeli settlements. According to the Washington Post, some former campaign aides “have been alarmed by Kushner’s efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere.” But Bannon’s portfolio may be even broader. His hand was apparent in the President’s dark Inauguration speech, in his economic nationalism, and in his early, aggressive stances against Mexico and refugees.

    The President’s isolation runs deeper than that. As the confusion around the immigration ban made clear, the vast government he oversees has little input on his actions. In an interview this week, Trump said that he reads the Times, the New York Post, and the Washington Post each day, but he seems to scan them as an actor does, for reviews of his own performance. His campaign made clear that he was not interested in the findings of scientists, social scientists, or the American government. Trump’s transition has alienated him from the American public. Gallup found on Friday that fifty per cent of Americans disapproved of Trump’s performance, the highest disapproval rating on record for any American President this early in his term.
    In normal times, an Administration this isolated and divorced from public opinion would seem to be fatally weak. The argument made by the President’s first week is that these conditions, combined with the general assent of a Republican-controlled Congress, might in fact create the opposite situation, freeing him to do whatever he wants.

    Read more:
    http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/a-dangerously-isolated-president

  9. Heather MacKenzie
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    It was a slight of hand while we get distracted with confusion and their testing of what we will put up with. They are learning from us how they will proceed next, all on what we let them get away with.

  10. Rat
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Foreign Policy is reporting “Steve Bannon Is Making Sure There’s No White House Paper Trail, Says Intel Source: The Trump administration’s chief strategist has already taken control of both policy and process on national security.”

  11. Jean Henry
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    ha! Rat. I just came here to post the same:

    “He is running a cabal, almost like a shadow NSC,” the official said. He described a work environment where there is little appetite for dissenting opinions, shockingly no paper trail of what’s being discussed and agreed upon at meetings, and no guidance or encouragement so far from above about how the National Security Council staff should be organized.

    The intelligence official, who said he was willing to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt when it took office, is now deeply troubled by how things are being run.”

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/30/steve-bannon-is-making-sure-theres-no-white-house-paper-trail-trump-president/

  12. anonymous
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Given how much Trump hated Obama, it’s amazing to me how often they fall back on the excuse, “We’re doing just what Obama did.”

  13. M
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I suspect attorneys everywhere are pouring over section (a)(6) of federal statute 50 U.S. Code 3021 right now to see if there might be a way to compel Bannon to get in front of a Senate committee. If I had to bet, though, I’d say that it won’t happen. As much as I’d like to get my hopes up about things like this, I’ve been down this road too many times in the past.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted January 31, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Back tracking… no answers yet. http://twitchy.com/gregp-3534/2017/01/31/newsweeks-jonathan-alter-attempts-legal-analysis-on-steve-bannon-and-the-nsc-gets-nuked-by-laurence-tribe/

  15. dennis
    Posted February 1, 2017 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Sean Spicer is handsome for an older gentleman.

    I’d fuck him.

  16. Meta
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The Guradian: “Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon stripped of national security council role:

    Donald Trump’s political strategist Steve Bannon has lost his place on the national security council in a staff shakeup, documents show.

    A presidential memorandum dated 4 April took Bannon, the former Breitbart News executive and chief White House link to the nationalist rightwing, off the country’s main body for foreign policy and national security decision-making. It also restores the traditional roles of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of national intelligence to the NSC.

    While the revamp is likely to be seen as a victory for Trump’s second national security adviser, army lieutenant general HR McMaster, the substantive impact of the shakeup remains to be seen. A parallel security structure in the Eisenhower executive office building, known as the Strategic Initiatives Group, reports to Bannon, whose close relationship with Trump suggests continued influence in this administration.

    While the White House on Wednesday pushed back against the perception that Bannon had been demoted, McMaster’s camp described Bannon’s removal and the restoration of joint chiefs chairman Gen Joseph Dunford and intelligence chief Dan Coats to the council as a key objective for the national security adviser.

    “Huge,” said one McMaster ally who requested anonymity. “That’s a big deal.”

    The ally said the move showed McMaster establishing his influence with the president. McMaster was neither part of Trump’s election team nor even his second choice to run the NSC.

    The McMaster ally described Bannon’s removal as a “priority” for senior advisers “both in and out of the West Wing”, including defense secretary James Mattis.

    Bannon’s presence on the council, which considers itself above partisan politics, was considered troubling to those aligned with McMaster.

    Read more:
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/05/steve-bannon-national-security-council-role-trump-shakeup?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Relay

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