After Steve Bannon was promoted to a role on the National Security Council on Saturday by President Donald Trump, the hashtag #StopPresidentBannon hit the top of Twitter's U.S. trending chart as thousands objected to President Trump's chief strategist. Before his political career, Bannon served as executive chair of Breitbart News, which is considered a far-right news, opinion and commentary website that Bannon described as the platform of the Internet-based alt-right, anti-mainstream movement. Associated Press sources from the White House stated Bannon's addition was "essential to the commander in chief's decision-making process."
Council members advise the president on national security and foreign affairs. With the move, Bannon will join "high-level discussions about national security," according BBC News.
The move shook up the council's traditional composition, diminishing the role of military and intelligence leadership, reports Time.
According to the BBC, "the director of national intelligence and the joint chiefs will attend when discussions pertain to their areas." Normally, the director and joint chiefs attend all meetings in the principals' committee - the NSC's inner circle, according to BBC.
Both Bannon and Breitbart have been criticized for their links to the racist and nationalist movement know as the "alt-right." The site ignited controversy during last year's presidential campaign because of its alleged alignment with white supremacists, white nationalists and anti-Semites, reports Yahoo.
As chief strategist, Bannon, 63, also has been perceived as a driving force behind many of Trump's most controversial executive orders, namely the banning of refugees on entry by people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in an interview Sunday with ABC television that Bannon was part of "an unbelievable group of folks that are part of the NSC."
"The president gets plenty of information from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and gets briefed and what they've done is modernize the National Security Council, so it's less bureaucratic and more focused on providing the president with the intelligence he needs," Spicer said.
Bannon, "is a former naval officer with a tremendous understanding of the world and the geopolitical landscape we have now," he said. "Having the chief strategist for the president in those meetings who has a significant military background to help make, guide what the president's final analysis will be, is crucial."
Bannon attended Harvard Business School, according to Fox News, before he began his career as a Goldman Sachs banker, then became a Hollywood producer before taking over the Breitbart news platform. He is currently on leave from Breitbart while working for Trump.
The #StopPresidentBannon hashtag exploded Sunday, reports USA Today, as users deplored the ex-BreitbartNews chief's increased influence in the White House.
Trump also selected Mike Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, to lead the NSC. Flynn feuded with the then-head of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence while leading the Defense Intelligence Agency before being removed from the post in 2014, reports Market Watch. He also disagreed with some of Trump's cabinet picks and raised concerns within various agencies that he'd consolidate power and decision-making in the council. In addition, Flynn raised concerns by staffing the NSC with a number of officials with military backgrounds.
Trump criticized U.S. intelligence agencies during his campaign and his transition to the White House. He concluded that the ODNI, which was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and coordinates work between the government's 16 intelligence agencies, has become bloated and politicized, The Wall Street Journal reported in early January. Trump has selected former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to head the agency.
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said the NSC "sadly has some really questionable people on it," he told NBC's "Meet the Press," on Sunday, citing Bannon among them.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Bannon's appointment "a radical departure from any National Security Council in history." He told "Face the Nation" on CBS: "The role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been diminished, I understand, with this reorganization. One person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view. So, it's of concern, this 'reorganization.'"