According to Bloomberg, Donald Trump has reorganized his National Security Council and removed his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. The report that broke today continued:
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was given responsibility for setting the agenda for meetings of the NSC or the Homeland Security Council, and was authorized to delegate that authority to Bossert, at his discretion, according to the filing.
Under the move, the national intelligence director, Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, are again “regular attendees” of the NSC’s principals committee.
Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, was elevated to the National Security Council’s principals committee at the beginning of Trump’s presidency. The move drew criticism from some members of Congress and Washington’s foreign policy establishment.
A White House official said that Bannon was placed on the committee in part to monitor Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and never attended a meeting. He’s no longer needed with McMaster in charge of the council, the official said.
The official explanation as to why he was removed doesn’t make any sense given Bannon’s position on the committee was clearly created to politicize it, not to “monitor” Michael Flynn (there was also no official statement from the Trump administration on Bannon’s position at the NSC in the first place). Bannon’s removal is more likely a result of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s reported attempts to marginalize him — a more reasonable explanation given Kushner’s more centrist politics and general attachment to reality. This coupled with the growing realization that the entire political establishment is sick to death of the Alt-Right movement Steve Bannon represents makes his removal from from the NSC all the more understandable.
Trump’s decision to place a political advisor with no government experience on the NSC was unprecedented and was an alarming overture to Washington that the line between basic governance and Trump’s new Alt-Right ideology was going to become obsolete. But as Bannon’s influence created disastrous results for Trump in the real world (think the immigration ban), those close to the president have no doubt been urging him to steer clear of the nationalist guru whose fan base elected him.
According to the Alt Right fan site Bannon used to run, Breitbart.com, (and no, we’re not linking to them), Bannon was privately highly critical of Trump’s health care policy given it was essentially a giveaway to the insurance industry. Bannon is no corporate Republican and has been trying to implement his vision of a quasi fascist/nationalist economic system that free market establishment Republicans are repulsed by. Kushner and other more rational advisors to the president know that Republicans will not stand by idly as Bannon attempts to enact his agenda and will have almost certainly lobbied to take away as much power from Bannon as possible. His removal from the NSC is a huge blow to his prestige and the mythology surrounding his power, and the Alt-Right movement will be acutely aware of what this means.
Trump was elected on a platform of economic populism and xenophobia towards immigrants and Muslims. He has made almost no progress on any of these fronts and is finding out the difficulties of passing legislation in a political system designed to prevent radical change. Bannon’s extremism may have been a plus on the campaign trail, but in Washington D.C it is a serious liability and his influence over Trump is waning by the day.
The Alt-Right aren’t exactly a forgiving bunch and despite their unyielding allegiance to Trump they’ll jump ship as soon as they begin to understand he never cared about them in the first place.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.