Trump May Have Demoted NSC’s Military and Intelligence Leaders by Accident

“And that’s why you should read things before you sign them.” Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Apparently even a “fine-tuned machine” like the Trump administration is susceptible to copy-and-paste errors.

The New York Times reports that Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, the new national security adviser, is considering a reorganization of the national security team. In addition to giving himself control of the Homeland Security Council — which was apparently split off from the National Security Council to reduce the power of his predecessor Michael Flynn — McMaster may take the opportunity to correct some of the administration’s most contentious staffing decisions.

A previous leaky dispatch suggested that President Trump was angry that he wasn’t fully briefed on the order that put Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, on the National Security Council Principals Committee. Despite the huge backlash to politicizing the foreign policy team, it doesn’t look like Bannon is going anywhere. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said McMaster has free rein to organize his staff how he likes — though changes to Bannon’s position would have to be approved by the president.

However, the Trump administration may elevate other top officials to equal standing with the former head of Breitbart. The Times reports that while giving Bannon a role on the committee was intentional, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were only demoted to occasional appearances at committee meetings because staffers got confused when they were cribbing from previous administrations’ organizational charts:

In crafting their organization order, the officials said, Mr. Trump’s aides essentially cut and pasted language from Mr. Bush’s organization chart, substituting the national intelligence director for the C.I.A. director, who back then was the head of the nation’s spy agencies.

What Mr. Trump’s team did not realize, officials said, was that Mr. Obama’s organization chart made those two positions full members of the committee.

The new report clarifies that Trump blamed Flynn, not Bannon, for failing to make him understand the ramifications of his changes to the NSC’s organization. Presumably, with Flynn gone, the administration has put all of these embarrassing misunderstandings behind it.

NSC Military, Intel Demotion May Have Been an Accident