US Energy Secretary Rick Perry will be replacing Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's chief strategist, on the National Security Council, the White House announced on Wednesday (5 April). The announcement came on the heels of news that Bannon would be removed from the council's principals committee.
The council shake-up gives greater influence to National Security Adviser HR McMaster, who has at times been at odds with Bannon. Bloomberg Politics notes that McMaster will now have greater control over the committee and will count the Homeland Security Council under his authority.
Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bosser, who was initially given authority to convene or chair the National Security Council's principals meeting, will cede that authority to McMaster, according to a presidential memorandum dated Tuesday (4 April).
According to the Houston Chronicle, other additions were made to the council, including National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
In an interview with Fox News, Vice President Mike Pence maintained that the shakeup was not a demotion for either Bannon or Bosser. "Not for Steve, not for Tom. These are very highly valued members of our administration. They're going to continue to play important policy roles.
"But I think with HR McMaster's addition as our national security adviser - a man of extraordinary background in the military - this is just a natural evolution to ensure the National Security Council is organised in a way that best serves the president in resolving and making those difficult decisions."
Reaction from both sides of the aisle
Lawmakers from both parties largely applauded the president's decision to remove Bannon from the National Security Council.
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) said Bannon should have never been part of the council to begin with. "Removing him was the right thing to do," he tweeted. Fellow Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was "very pleased" Bannon was no longer on the council, adding: "My hope is that he would have no role in government at all and would be completely out."
Meanwhile, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), called Bannon's departure a "positive step by General McMaster to gain control over a body that has been politicised by Bannon's involvement".
Republicans also applauded the move, with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) offering Trump rare praise for his decision.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted: "Steve Bannon's removal from National Security Council is welcome news."
Others noted that Bannon's removal from the committee is not just a victory for McMaster, but for Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. According to Politico, Kushner and Bannon have clashed in the past, with Kushner believing Bannon does more harm than good.
Despite the change, some cautioned that Bannon's ousting does not necessarily mean his influence has been curbed. "I get a sense that people are going, 'Ding-dong, the witch is dead,'" Eric Edelman, former undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration, told Politico. "The only thing he doesn't appear to have is a seat at the NSC principals committee, and it's not clear how important that will be."