The elevation of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council was reportedly amplified by a copy-paste error

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White House chief strategist Steve Bannon before a news conference at the White House in Washington on February 16.
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REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump’s decision to give Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist, a major role on his foreign-policy team was amplified by a cut-and-paste error, according to a report from The New York Times.

Trump’s team reportedly did not specifically intend to elevate Bannon, a political appointee, above the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence when crafting the January 28 memo that laid out the organization of the National Security Council.

Trump’s aides essentially copied language from President George W. Bush’s organization chart, Trump administration officials told The Times’ Peter Baker, not realizing that the Joint Chiefs chairman and the intelligence director were later made full members of the NSC’s principals committee under the Obama administration.

The principals committee, an interagency forum that deals with policy issues affecting national security, is usually reserved for cabinet secretaries and top military and intelligence officials, but the January memo elevated Bannon to a permanent position on the committee and removed the director of national intelligence and the Joint Chiefs chairman as regular attendees.

The move was widely criticized as injecting politics into national-security matters.

While the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence weren’t members of the principals committee under Bush – Obama added them in 2009 – Trump is the first president to include a political appointee as a permanent member of the NSC.

The Times reported that Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, was considering restructuring the NSC to put the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence back on the principals committee.