President Trump has removed chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon from his role on the National Security Council (NSC), a senior White House official said Wednesday.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster made the decision, which Trump approved, the official said.
Bannon, who led Trump’s campaign in its final months, was elevated in January to a position on the NSC principals committee in a shakeup that drew widespread criticism that Trump was trying to politicize the council.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and director of national intelligence had their roles downgraded in the move.
The Joint Chiefs chairman and intelligence director are having their roles as “regular attendees” of the principals committee restored, according to a regulatory filing dated Tuesday. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency will also have a permanent role on the committee.
Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert also had his role on the council downgraded, but National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster can delegate his authority to call meetings and set the agenda to Bossert, according to the filing.
“Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration. I was put on to ensure that it was de-operationalized,” Bannon said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. “General McMaster has returned the NSC to its proper function.”
The moves are a sign that McMaster is looking to put his own stamp on the National Security Council and rework some of the changes enacted by his ousted predecessor, Michael Flynn.
Trump administration officials said they wanted to shrink the size the council from its size under Rice, who was former President Obama’s national security adviser, and pare down its role.
Bannon was placed on the council in order “to ensure that Flynn actually did this,” the White House official said.
The chief strategist did not need his role on the council now that McMaster is overseeing the changes, the official added.
Flynn was fired in February after it was revealed he misled senior officials about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
Under the new structure, Bannon could still be invited to attend NSC meetings, but will not necessarily be invited to each one.
The White House stressed the move is not a demotion for Bannon, who is one of Trump’s closest advisers. The official said Bannon only attended one meeting of the principals committee.
The move was cheered by former Obama National Security Council official Ned Price.
“The removal of Steve Bannon is as overdue as the addition of leading military and intelligence advisors, whose information and counsel have long been critical to the formulation of U.S. foreign policy,” said Price, a former NSC spokesperson.