President Donald Trump has tapped his controversial senior adviser and chief strategist Stephen Bannon for a seat at National Security Council Principals Committee meetings in what some experts are calling an "unprecedented" political appointment to the panel.
In an executive memorandum signed by Trump on Saturday, the president also downgraded the status of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the security council's Principals Committee. Both will now only attend meetings "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."
The invitation-only status of the Joint Chiefs chairman and director of national intelligence is similar to a policy instituted under President George W. Bush.
Another Bush-era policy re-instituted in Trump's memorandum is separating the Homeland Security Council from the NSC, which President Obama had previously merged.
While it's not abnormal for presidents to restructure the makeup of their National Security Council, the addition of Bannon, the former publisher of Breitbart News, to the Principals Committee has brought scrutiny over the adviser's influence in Trump's inner circle.
Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who worked with Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during the transition, called Trump's reorganization "stone cold crazy."
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://t.co/Mmyc139w3M— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) January 29, 2017
Responding to questions around the reorganization on ABC's 'This Week,' White House press secretary Sean Spicer called Rice's tweets "clearly inappropriate."
"We are instilling reforms to make sure that we streamline the process for the president to make decisions on key, important intelligence matters," Spicer said. "What they have done is modernize the National Security Council so that it is less bureaucratic and more focused on providing the president with the intelligence he needs."
Some have also pointed to comments by Joshua Bolten, the former chief of staff to Bush,and how he recalled the former president specifically demanding that adviser Karl Rove not attend meetings where national security issues were discussed.
"It wasn't because he didn't respect Karl's advice or didn't value his input," Bolten said at a national security forum last September. "But the president also knew that the signal he wanted to send to the rest of his administration, the signal he wanted to send to the public, and the signal he especially wanted to send to the military is that the decisions I'm making that involve life and death for the people in uniform will not be tainted by any political decisions."
Spicer cited Bannon's previous experience as a Naval officer as evidence his opinion would be valuable in the NSC, but added "he's not giving advice."
"He's got a tremendous understanding of the world and the geopolitical landscape that we have now," Spicer said. "Having key decision makers, and the chief strategist for the United States -- for the president to come in and talk about what the strategy is going forward is crucial."