Steve Bannon Is Making Sure There’s No White House Paper Trail
A familiar tactic—cf. the (excellent) 2001 movie Conspiracy—this time reported by Kate Brannen in Foreign Policy. This is beyond ominous. What is Bannon thinking of doing for which it is so important that there be no paper trail? And that is a serious question, because the answer will almost certainly be serious. No legitimate government business is ever done without a paper trail. This is frightening and urgent. The article begins:
If there was any question about who is largely in charge of national security behind the scenes at the White House, the answer is becoming increasingly clear: Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet, and now White House advisor.
Even before he was given a formal seat on the National Security Council’s “principals committee” this weekend by President Donald Trump, Bannon was calling the shots and doing so with little to no input from the National Security Council staff, according to an intelligence official who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution.
“He is running a cabal, almost like a shadow NSC,” the official said. He described a work environment where there is little appetite for dissenting opinions, shockingly no paper trail of what’s being discussed and agreed upon at meetings, and no guidance or encouragement so far from above about how the National Security Council staff should be organized.
The intelligence official, who said he was willing to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt when it took office, is now deeply troubled by how things are being run.
“They ran all of these executive orders outside of the normal construct,” he said, referring to last week’s flurry of draft executive orders on everything from immigration to the return of CIA “black sites.”
After the controversial draft orders were written, the Trump team was very selective in how they routed them through the internal White House review process, the official said.
Under previous administrations, if someone thought another person or directorate had a stake in the issue at hand or expertise in a subject area, he or she was free to share the papers as long as the recipient had proper clearance.
With that standard in mind, when some officials saw Trump’s draft executive orders, they felt they had broad impact and shared them more widely for staffing and comments.
That did not sit well with Bannon or his staff, according to the official. More stringent guidelines for handling and routing were then instituted, and the National Security Council staff was largely cut out of the process.
By the end of the week, they weren’t the only ones left in the dark. Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, was being briefed on the executive order, which called for immediately shutting the borders to nationals from seven largely Muslim countries and all refugees, while Trump was in the midst of signing the measure, the New York Times reported.
The White House did not respond in time to a request for comment.
The lack of a paper trail documenting the decision-making process is also troubling, the intelligence official said. For example, under previous administrations, after a principals or deputies meeting of the National Security Council, the discussion, the final agreement, and the recommendations would be written up in what’s called a “summary of conclusions” — or SOC in government-speak. . .
It occurs to me that there may be good reason why Bannon would want the CIA Director and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs out of the room. And making sure the Secretary of Energy is out of the room suggests it might be nukes: those are under control of the Secretary of Energy. This looks worse by the minute
This seems not unlike a national Constitutional emergency, particularly given Bannon’s well known very strong Alt-Right (i.e., neo-Nazi) views.
And Bannon knows he has very little time—especially now that the Senate can question him in his confirmation—so he’s going to move fast. And he seems to have a surprisingly large number of people on whom he can count.
Any Trump supporters in the military? in police forces? Border Patrol (certainly: the Womens March participants turned back at the border, illegally)? FBI (James Comey, for one)?
So he wants to destroy the government (which he’s said), and he has a lot of power but probably for only a little time. So he will move quickly. Where is Jack Bauer when you need him?