U.S. President Donald Trump has reshuffled his National Security Council, ordering the inclusion of his controversial chief strategist in the key policy-making body.
In addition to Stephen Bannon’s appointment, the White House also said it was changing the attendance of the council's so-called Principals Committee, the cabinet-level interagency forum that deals with national security policy issues.
Both moves, announced January 28, raised eyebrows among national security experts and former government officials.
Bannon has become a lightning rod for criticism in the new Trump administration. Before joining Trump’s team last year, he ran a news website known as Breitbart, which regularly published xenophobic and occasionally racially tinged articles.
The National Security Council (NSC) is the main executive agency group advising the president on national security and foreign affairs.
Under previous administrations, the director of national intelligence, known as the DNI, attended all meetings of the NSC's Principals Committee.
Also attending was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking military official in the U.S. government.
But the reshuffling announced January 28 instead said the DNI and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman would "attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."
"The security threats facing the United States in the 21st century transcend international boundaries," the order said. "Accordingly, the United States Government's decision-making structures and processes to address these challenges must remain equally adaptive and transformative."
Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona), who has increasingly become a vocal critic of some Trump policies, told CBS television January 29 that he was worried about Bannon's presence on the NSC.
He called it "the most radical departure from any National Security Council in history."
In an unrelated order also released January 28, Trump ordered a lifetime ban on administration officials lobbying for foreign governments and a five-year ban for domestic lobbying.
With reporting by NBC, CBS, and The Guardian