Donald Trump's controversial senior adviser Steve Bannon, the man who is said to be behind the “Muslim ban” executive order, will have a permanent seat at White House National Security Council meetings, solidifying his role as one of the most powerful members of the president's inner circle.
In an executive memorandum signed Saturday, Trump elevated Bannon while downgrading the status of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the security council's principals committee.
The director and chairman now will only be present at meetings "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed," the memorandum said.
Bannon, credited in large part with successfully orchestrating the billionaire's upset election victory, led the Breitbart News website – described as a haven for the so-called "alt-right" movement, which includes various neo-fascists and white supremacists.
The site ignited controversy during the presidential campaign because of its alignment with open white nationalists and anti-Semites.
Bannon "is a former naval officer with a tremendous understanding of the world and the geopolitical landscape we have now," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in an interview Sunday with ABC television 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."
Unnamed Republican officials told CNN that Bannon and Trump’s policy advisor Stephen Miller were the driving force behind the president’s order to stop accepting Syrian refugees and prohibiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, including the one on green card holders entering the United States.
Following the news of Bannon’s appointment, the hashtag #StopPresidentBannon became a top trend on Twitter as users railed against the far-right official.
“Very dangerous and unprecedented,” former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders said in a Facebook post Sunday night. “We do not need an extreme right-wing political operative on the National Security Council. Steve Bannon must be removed from the National Security Council.”
Some high-profile Republicans slammed the appointment as well as Trump’s recent travel bans that sparked massive protests at airports in cities across the nation.
U.S. Senator John McCain said Sunday he was "worried" about the addition of Trump's chief strategist to the U.S. National Security Council, adding that it was "a radical departure from any national security council in history."
Bannon and Miller were also credited with the highly nationalistic and isolationist inauguration speech that Trump falsely claimed he had written. Political experts have been arguing that Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law are the only ones in the White House that have the president’s ear, making them the most powerful individuals in the country as Trump lacks any political experience.
In an interview earlier this week, Bannon said that the media in the U.S. is now the “opposition party” and said they must “shut up” instead of attacking the policies of Trump and his team.
Bannon began his career as a Goldman Sachs banker, then became a producer in Hollywood before taking over the Breitbart news organization.