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President Trump’s customary presidential memo setting the organization of the National Security Council has caused a fair amount of consternation in the national security community. The fact that the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are no longer regular members of the Committee raised a few eyebrows. But the revelation that Steve Bannon, Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, is an invitee to all National Security Council meetings and has also been appointed to be a “regular attendee” of meetings of the Principals Committee has caused outright alarm.
Most of that alarm has centered on policy concerns about Bannon’s addition. On Lawfare, John Bellinger noted that Bannon’s presence represents a commingling of the “political side” of the White House with the national security side, which is an “unusual” deviation from past practice. Officials ranging from Senator John McCain to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates to former U.N. Ambassador and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have raised concerns. (Theirs and others' reactions are available here.) And Just Security’s Kate Brannen has a detailed examination of the potential effects Bannon’s role will have on decision-making in the NSC.
But some criticism has also taken on a legal character. Yesterday, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter tweeted: