Ominous Signs: Bannon removed from National Security Council and Nunes recuses himself from Russia investigation
A dark cloud continues to loom over a fracturing White House.
In the past few days, there has been a number of important shakeups in the Trump administration:
First, Donald Trump’s closest advisor, Stephen Bannon, was removed from the National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday April 5. Bannon was considered a controversial appointment that had drawn bipartisan criticism when it was announced in February.
Second, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Ca.) recused himself on April 6 from the Congressional investigation on the links between the Trump Administration and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. This comes after an announcement by House Ethics Committee saying they were looking into Nunes’ handling of classified information.
These changes will be important to how the White House operates in tandem with the intelligence community, and how Congress will proceed in its investigation of the current administration.
Bannon’s Removal from the NSC
Bannon was controversially added to the ranks of the NSC in an unprecedented move that put a direct line of communication from the president to head of the intelligence agencies. A top adviser to the president is already one of the most controversial figures in the Trump administration, and exerts the most influence over the president’s decisions on a daily basis.
The announcement was not made with a public statement, but was first reported by Bloomberg when a person familiar with the Federal Register noticed that Bannon’s name was removed. In addition to removing Bannon, the role of top intelligence and defense officials was restored to the current National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
This major shakeup in the NSC comes only a few months after Bannon was placed on the council to “babysit” Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a White House source in Politico. Flynn resigned shortly thereafter for misleading the Vice President about conversations with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Nunes’s Recusal From Congressional Probe on Russia
Last week, I wrote a piece asking why Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Ca.) was still heading the congressional probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election after reports surfaced that he had met with unnamed sources at the White House a day before an announcement that there was evidence of an incidental wiretapping of members of Trump’s transition team.
The disclosure and announcement was supposed to back up Trump’s accusal on Twitter that Obama had tapped the Trump Towers. Instead, it only brought Nunes under more scrutiny for his close relationship with the administration that he was leading an investigation against.
Nunes’ recusal comes after the House Ethics Committee announced that it would be focusing it’s investigation on whether Nunes violated federal law during a press conference on March 22 when he announced that intelligence agencies incidentally collected information about associates of President Trump.
In a statement, Nunes defended himself and blamed left-wing activists for filing a complaint against him, but said that “it is in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress” for him to step aside and hand off further investigation to Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney.
What is clear from these events is that the White House is becoming increasingly nervous as the Russia Investigation looms over them like a dark cloud and Trump’s polling numbers sink.