Democrats have a warning for Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon: Don’t use your position at Breitbart to share classified and sensitive information you collected while at the White House.
"Steve Bannon has an ongoing obligation to safeguard our nation’s secrets, and he does not gain some kind of extra Constitutional protection just because he is now returning to a position in the media,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
Cummings said lawmakers closely watch people in such positions after they leave high level security positions. He said Bannon should not guide Breitbart to publish information based on classified material he learned while working for the president.
“If he or anyone else in a similar position fails to meet this obligation and provides classified information to someone who is not entitled to have it, he could and should be brought to justice,” he said.
Rachel Cohen, press secretary for Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Bannon faces strict limitations.
“Bannon is subject to all the same legal restrictions on sharing classified information to which he was exposed in his role at the White House as any other former government employee,” she said. “Those who violate those restrictions can be subject to prosecution.”
Bannon was ousted from the White House on Friday and quickly returned to the far-right website Breitbart, which he ran until joining the Trump campaign team in summer 2016.
The president praised Bannon’s return to Breitbart on Twitter: “Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews...maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!”
But inside the White House, aides are worried Bannon will use the position to attack the administration’s policy. It was no secret that Bannon’s policy positions were far out of step with those advocated by other Trump advisers, including the president’ daughter Ivanka and her husband and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.
Many are expecting Bannon to lash out at those who fought him at the White House. According to Vanity Fair, Bannon is “about to go nuclear” in his “war” with Kushner. A CNN interview with the Joshua Green, author of “Devil’s Bargain,” a book about Bannon and Trump, noted that Bannon is about “to go buck wild” in his criticism of “the establishment.”
Breitbart on Monday, citing “a source with direct knowledge,” did expose a bit of White House intrigue. The site sought to blame the president’s staff for Trump’s seemingly casual “that’s too bad” answer to a question about the crash of the USS John McCain that left 10 sailors missing.
The site noted that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had failed to brief Trump on the accident, meaning the president was unaware of the situation when he made his short statement.
As one of Trump’s closest advisers, Bannon had access to extraordinary amounts of classified information on inside NATO business, nuclear threats posed by North Korea and Iran and the strength of Islamic terrorist movements.
But there is no need to expose sensitive or classified information to cause havoc in the White House. A Bannon interview last week with the liberal-leaning “The American Prospect” just before he left the White House reportedly infuriated White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Among Bannon’s opinions: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
This sort of insider’s view might upset members of the Trump administration, but it isn’t classified information.