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50 US lawmakers urge Trump to remove Bannon from NSC

Saturday, Feb 4, 2017,12:09 IST By anju A A A

Washington | Fifty Democratic congressmen have written US President Donald Trump demanding he explain his placement of controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon on the National Security Council despite lacking formal foreign policy experience.

The letter follows the introduction of two Democratic bills, one in the Senate and the other in the House of Representatives, on Wednesday aimed at keeping Bannon off the NSC’s core Principals Committee and reinstating the permanent status of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence.

Trump caused an uproar last weekend when he issued a memorandum that reorganised the NSC to elevate Bannon onto the Principals Committee and to relegate the Joint Chiefs chairman and DNI to roles where they only attend when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise” are discussed.

“National security should never fall victim to partisan politics,” said the House Democrats yesterday in their letter headed by congressmen Ted Deutch and Jerrold Nadler.

“We strongly encourage you to restore the DNI and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to their rightful status as regular members of the Principals Committee,” they wrote.

They also asked the administration to provide Congress “a written explanation for your decision to inject politics” into the NSC by formally elevating Bannon to the Principals Committee.

“And the deeply troubling allegations that Mr Bannon supports or is tolerant of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim views take on added significance if he is to serve as a member.”

The 63-year-old Bannon, former head of rightwing Breitbart News, is seen as a provocateur who rejects political convention and has an uncanny ability to steer Trump towards his own ideological agenda.

Trump’s decision to give Bannon a place on the council has alarmed former officials from Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, a former national security specialist at the Pentagon, introduced her bill in order to restore the permanent roles of the DNI and Joint Chiefs chairman to the council.

But it would also deny a seat to Bannon or any other individual “whose primary responsibility is political in nature,” she said.

Veteran Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee and co-author of the Senate bill, on Thursday blasted Trump’s inclusion of Bannon as “a completely unacceptable infringement of politics into national security.”

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