Chief Strategist Steve Bannon could be making a move on National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to two separate New York Times reports.
Bannon and Flynn are reported to be friends, but the former general’s lack-luster performance thus far has created a power vacuum that Bannon may have recently filled. Bannon’s first power grab came over the weekend, after it was reported he would be given a principal seat on the National Security Council, while relegating the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence to meetings only on issues in their direct areas of responsibility. The move is highly unusual, as some of the most powerful top strategists in past administrations were not given a seat at the NSC.
Flynn “has the full confidence of the president and his team,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the New York Times Sunday, but it is no secret that Flynn is not the most popular member of the Trump administration. Secretary of Defense James Mattis removed Flynn from his intelligence role in Afghanistan 2010 while serving as head of U.S. Central Command after Flynn was investigated for sharing classified information with Pakistani officials.
Flynn has also frustrated other administration officials due to his mishandling of the National Security Council transition process and domineering attitude. Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who now serves as a senior adviser, reportedly held a meeting with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, Mattis and Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo to better coordinate the administration. A portion of the meeting was purposefully scheduled to discuss concerns over Flynn, according to a New York Times report.
Trump and Bannon share a distaste for the political establishment, and there are few organizations in Washington more established than the NSC. Historically, the Council does not include political strategists as full principal members, and is instead made up of the heads of the various security and defense agencies. The new role will give Bannon immense influence over national security issues, in addition to his already strong voice on domestic issues.
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