While the furor over President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily barring citizens from seven Muslim nations from entering the U.S. is still in full swing, another order Trump signed this week has outraged his critics.
On Saturday, Trump signed three executive orders. Among them was one reorganizing the structure of the National Security Council, which advises the president on a broad range of issues related to security.
By law, the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the secretary of energy all sit on the council. Beyond that, however, the council’s membership is determined by each new president.
Still, it is customary for the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the nation’s highest ranking military official, and the director of national intelligence to be regular attendees for the council’s meetings.
In Trump’s executive order, he directed that the current chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford, and the director of national intelligence, a position to which Trump appointee Dan Coats is expected to be confirmed, attend the NSC meetings. However, he excluded them from the principals committee, the senior-level inter-agency group that considers the most major national security issues.
Instead, the order stated that the two will “attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” Meanwhile, Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, will have a permanent seat on the “principals committee.”
Under President Barack Obama, the chairman and the director were both permanent members of the committee, while under President George W. Bush, their roles were similar to Trump’s committee, per Bloomberg.
But Bannon’s presence on the most important national security team within the White House generated worries among some, who cite his white nationalist viewpoints and time at far-right website Breitbart as proof that he is unfit to serve in the government.
And those worries boiled over into #StopPresidentBannon, a hashtag that began trending on Twitter early Sunday morning. More than 230,000 tweets have been sent with the hashtag, with many claiming that Bannon’s place on the principals committee is proof that he has managed to gain an undue level of influence in the government without facing election or Senate confirmation.
In an interview with ABC, White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the decision, citing his experience in the Navy.
“He is a former naval officer. He's got a tremendous understanding of the world and the geopolitical landscape that we have now," Spicer said, per the Associated Press.
“Having the chief strategist for the president in those meetings who has a significant military background to help make — guide what the president's final analysis is going to be is crucial.”
Bannon has also generated headlines in recent days by referring to the news media as the “opposition party” and saying it should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” per the New York Times. A few days later, Trump echoed his adviser, saying the media is “the opposition party in many ways,” per CNN.