Donald Trump signed an executive order that put Chief Strategist Steve Bannon on the National Security Council. But Trump apparently did not even realize he was doing so when he put pen to paper.
The New York Times published a fascinating piece about the inner workings of the White House under the Trump administration over the past two weeks. Buried deep within the richly detailed article was a stunning revelation: Donald Trump reportedly did not know he had appointed his Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to a position on the National Security Council (NSC) until after he signed the Presidential Memorandum doing so (emphasis added):
…Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.
The reorganization of the (NSC) evoked concerns when it was first announced, since it not only removed the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence from the Principals Committee, which is the core group within the NSC, but also gave Bannon a seat on the Principals Committee, which was seen as further indication of this administration’s distrust of expert counsel and disdain for experienced (and potentially dissenting) voices.
Additionally, the inclusion of Bannon was thought by some to indicate an extreme politicization of the administration’s approach to national security. Bannon, Trump’s former campaign manager and former head of the right-wing online media outlet Breitbart, is a hard-line nationalist who has bragged about making Breitbart a platform for white supremacists.
However, until the publication of the NYT report, the fact that Trump was unaware of the appointment of Bannon to the highest level national security advisory body in the United States until after he had signed that appointment into effect had not been revealed. And this raises grave questions about what is happening within the White House and who is exactly is in control — whether Trump is reading the orders and memoranda he signs, if he is receiving and remembering accurate and comprehensive briefings from his staff, and if Bannon, who was dubbed “the Great Manipulator” on the cover of Time Magazine, manipulated his way into the position without even consulting his ostensible boss.
While enjoying the prestige of the position, Trump has shown himself to be relatively disinterested in the actual day-to-day responsibilities of the presidency, including those with life-and-death national security impact. According to the NYT report, sources describe him as “obsessed with the décor” of the White House and having been “delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options.”
Meanwhile, only days into Trump’s presidency, the White House previously revealed the almost unimaginable information that Trump was absent from the Situation Room during the disastrous raid by U.S. military on a compound in Yemen — a raid he reportedly green-lighted over dinner and which resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and, according to Yemeni officials, 15 women and children.
In addition to demonstrating Trump’s detachment from the real-life impact of the papers he is signing, this latest revelation about Trump’s lack of knowledge about the appointment of Bannon to the NSC demonstrates a president not in control of his closest and most trusted advisors — and calls into question his judgment and temperamental fitness for the highest office in the land.