The New York Times reports: The whirlwind first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency had all the bravura hallmarks of a Stephen K. Bannon production.
It started with the doom-hued inauguration homily to “American carnage” in United States cities co-written by Mr. Bannon, followed a few days later by his “shut up” message to the news media. The week culminated with a blizzard of executive orders, mostly hatched by Mr. Bannon’s team and the White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, aimed at disorienting the “enemy,” fulfilling campaign promises and distracting attention from Mr. Trump’s less than flawless debut.
But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.
In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence.
But in terms of real influence, Mr. Bannon looms above almost everyone except the president’s son-in-law, Jared D. Kushner, in the Trumpian pecking order, according to interviews with two dozen Trump insiders and current and former national security officials. The move involving Mr. Bannon, as well as the boost in status to the White House homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, and Mr. Trump’s relationships with cabinet appointees like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have essentially layered over Mr. Flynn.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bannon — whose Breitbart website was a magnet for white nationalists, antiglobalists and conspiracy theorists — always planned to participate in national security. [Continue reading…]