Chatterings on Bannon’s Shadow Government
February 9, 2017
On January 31st, while driving home from my super liberal job of maintaining organic veggie gardens throughout Los Angeles, California, I tuned into 89.9, my local NPR station, and straight into an incredible interview by Audie Cornish. She was interviewing Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka. I had never heard of him but was quickly engrossed and repulsed in equal measure by his glib, arrogant English accent but more so by the dripping disdain he had for myself and my fellow Americans.
His dry, self-gratifying impression of Alan Rickman cum Newt Gingrich put me into a kind of fugue state. I couldn’t feel my hands on the steering wheel. My car levitated off the road on a cloud of disbelief and shame…were my ears bleeding? I strained to commit the interview to memory so I could Facebook-it later but eventually my over-reactive, fembot triggers were in full effect and I collapsed crying on the side of the road, relinquishing my future and my pink p*ssy hat in full surrender till the next election.
No, not really.
Knowing I wouldn’t be able to commit the interview to memory, I pulled my car over to take notes. And I did Facebook-it. And already the rabbit hole was opening beneath me. I’ve spent every day since then working on this (hopefully) in-depth article, delving into what’s going on with two of Trump’s most controversial early executive orders. I’ve learned a lot writing it and I sincerely hope you find it educational and that you are motivated to dig a little deeper as well.
First, that interview. What the holy f*ck was this guy talking about? Who was he talking TO? Had ISIS won? Is this what Brexit is? Did it come in a red British box covered in sh*t pansies making a huge deal about having a PhD in Pol Sci and not knowing that people with PhDs don’t all go around calling themselves “doctor.” Why was this English man so mad at Americans? Lecturing me on giving myself a good look in the mirror and learning up on American history; and all because the protesters at airports and at the worldwide women’s march need to remember THIS: history was made November 8th.
“GORKA: It looks like people totally disconnected from the reality of November 8. I find it quite amusing, sadly so, but amusing that there seems to be a large portion of the media and maybe the millennials who seem to not understand what happened on November 8.”
And then, “GORKA: Anybody who questions the fact that we have a new president and he should actually be executing the things that were part of his platform really doesn’t understand how a republican democracy functions in my opinion.”
Riiiiggghht. The memory of my non-vouchered, paid-for-out-of-my parents’-middle-class-pockets, Catholic school education on our sacred democracy included, let’s see….freedom of speech? A “right” you Breitbart folks eat at every meal. Is this not a form of debate? The debate you are forever accusing alt-lefters of avoiding. I call this DEBATE my friend.
Listening to Gorka speak, you can tell the words “presidential executive order” just makes this guy stiff. Even though Trump isn’t allowed to call his own executive order whatever the hell he wants. Evidenced as Press Secretary Sean Spicer is forced to say “not a ban” twenty thousand times.
And just FYI, Sebastian, I know you only became an American citizen yesterday but please, look at YOURSELF in the mirror and repeat after me:
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience by in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.
The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.
The people shall not be restrained from peaceably assembling and consulting for their common good, nor from applying to the legislature by petitions, or remonstrances for redress of their grievances.”
Sore losers or not.
In the same interview, Gorka said perhaps defensively: “It’s not about politics. It’s not about the Congress’s being consulted or the mandate of some kind of parliamentary function. It is about the security of our borders and our people.”
It turns out they didn’t tell Congress in advance. Not Paul Ryan. Not even the head of the House of the Judiciary. The Chief of Homeland Security was cut out. Who did know then? Who drafted this executive boner? There in lies the rub.
There is what you may call a shadow council.
They actually have a name now.
What? No! I like “shadow council.”
Sorry, they are calling themselves the “Principals Committee” of the National Security Council.
Blech. I enjoy saying Shaaaaadooooowww Cooooouuuncillll. Plus, I literally cannot get this written cause something new happens every minute.
Wait, now it’s “Strategic Initiatives Group.“
D*mn! Well, regardless of what you call it, all of this council/committee/congress/cabinet business was cockney to me until Henry Higgins put me straight.
I admit I didn’t really know what the National Security Council was, nonetheless what its shadow was. So taking Gorka’s advice, I did some revisiting of my high school Pol Sci and I want to share that information with you. It helped me to see the structure of the involved government offices in my mind, while trying to keep track of all these new names in the news.
(It’s not your imagination, there are more mouthpieces for Trump. It is highly unusual for this many political advisors to be this front and center communicating from the White House and making news. This constant messaging has elevated these deputies past Cabinet members and top military and intelligence advisors for the public’s ear. All the more reason to be educated.)
The National Security Council (NSC) is a consulting group specifically weighing in on issues of national security and foreign affairs. Historically it has met weekly with the President. It is part of the Executive Branch, includes some department secretaries (these are also called “Cabinet officials”) along with selected advisors.
Let’s look at the Cabinet the NSC pulls from. The official Cabinet includes the Vice President of the United States and Secretaries from the following Federal executive departments: State (1789), Treasury (1789), Justice (1870), Interior (1849), Agriculture (1862), Commerce (1903) , Labor (1913), Defense (1947), Health & Human Services (1953), Housing & Urban Development (1965), Transportation (1966), Energy (1977), Education (1980), Veterans’ Affairs (1989) and Homeland Security (2002).
I included the year each department was established (interesting!) and also put them in order of succession.
The significance of succession means that if Trump dies, and then Vice President Pence dies, and then the presiding officer of the House of Representatives, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan dies, and then Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch dies, we find our way to the Cabinet secretaries starting with Tillerson and down the line. The Cabinet is the President’s top advisor of officials, mostly all confirmed by the Senate, and also our back-up plan.
The President, in picking members for his National Security Council (established in 1947 btw), can choose from selected advisors that are “un-official, cabinet-level officials” like the Chief of Staff which in the Trump White House is Reince Priebus (he basically runs the White House), as well as the National Security Advisor who is Gen. Michael Flynn. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly would be especially vital given the subject matter, as is the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff (not to be confused with the Chief of Staff) Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. who is the senior most ranking military officer and considered to be the principal military advisor to the President. Also included traditionally in the NSC is the Director of National Intelligence (a new position created in 2004) who will probably be former Senator from Indiana Dan Coats (waiting confirmation).
Both Dunford and Coats have had their roles diminished in the NSC per executive decree. Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo who has been fingered for head of the CIA intially was also out of the NSC but recently the Director of the National Intelligence Agency got back in.
Now for the real news. Someone else who is “in” is Stephen Bannon. The human version of the Heat-Miser has been named to that special “principals committee” or Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG) on the NSC. And he’s not just on it, he’s heading it.
Not only is it unusual for a political consultant to have a permanent seat on the National Security Council but to have a high-ranking seat above military, security and intelligence officials, is flat out dangerous.
Stephen Bannon is a problem for a whole bunch of reasons. There is quite a lot written about him already so suffice to say he is a professional blower-upper of the status quo, the mastermind of Breitbart News which is everything that is Islamaphobic, racist, misogynistic and mean about America, a voice of chaos and greed, and a consumate war-mongerer. Bannon and his cronies, especially Sebastian Gorka from the interview above, are the hands in the puppet.
As proof of the precautions Bannon is taking to ensure his status and sounding a lot like Gorka, a recent quote: “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States. The elite media got…a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there. The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work. You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”
Trump has echoed this disdain for the media and free press in general and now mashed it up with the fake news/alternative facts phenomenon…and someone finally took Kellyanne Conway to task for it. Silencing the press is PAGE ONE in their handbook.
PAGE TWO: silence the haters. Bannon also loves to bellyache, alongside Gorka, over those butt-hurt crying Hillary voters, 65,844,954 strong, who seem not able to bring themselves to be 100% supportive of this completely unqualified President.
Gorka again on NPR: “I do think that this executive order is a moral question because it’s about protecting Americans. And I think the protests or the criticism is really just another reflection of the chattering classes.
CORNISH: But when you look at all the people at the airports, does that look like chattering classes to you?
GORKA: It does. It does.”
Hearing Sebastian Gorka use the word “moral” to defend the immigration ban makes me physically ill. It’s just NOT a word he should throw around. Breitbart.com is the most unethical, un-religious and morally-deficient website I’ve ever seen. Worse, it’s homegrown terrorism and it is radicalizing both the Democratic and Republican Parties and now the White House.
Here’s just a sample of the “moral” hypocrisy inside the Oval Office. A Breitbart taster. An amuse boeuf of vomit if you will.
She said in a speech in Philadelphia a week before the election, “Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers. It is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied or attacked in the school yard, it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone hiding on the internet. We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other.”
How interesting. Couldn’t agree more.
Enter into the political fray another breitbart.com sweetheart, conservative troll, professional bigot, and self-professed internet villain. Banned from Twitter for his relentless racist harassment of actress Leslie Jones, meet Milo Yiannopoulos and his piece on how online bullying ISN’T A REAL THING.
Below is a screen grab of another “news article” he wrote for Breitbart that Melania may not find so inspiring. It instructs ladies on how to deal with online harassment. P.S. Get your Trump Presidential Ring!
Let me pull out this charitable quote from Milo from the article above.
On Feb 1st, the author of the above was to give a chat to the kids at U.C. Berkley. Students and others rejected his hateful, internet-bullying ass, protests grew violent and the talk was cancelled. And guess who came to Milo’s defense?
Would Melania the defender of young girls against cyberbullies call Milo an “innocent” or simply a person with “a different point of view?” I think not. I hope not.
So that’s Breitbart and its current stranglehold on the West and East(?) Wing. Back to explaining this executive order on immigration and how these shady characters came to write it.
From the NPR interview, Sebastian Gorka, deputy security assistant to the President: “I think it’s very unfortunate to take a measure that is focused exclusively on increasing the safety of American citizens and try and turn it into some kind of political football.”
Gorka was alarmed about the politics of it all in response to a question from Audie Cornish on why ranking cabinet members and congresspeeps were not consulted before the executive order was signed.
Gorka boasted about the inner circle who made the decision to Sean Hannity. “We don’t have a national security team made up of 28-year-old grad school students who have degrees in fictional writing. We have a very serious national security team.”
Gorka, who became an American citizen in 2012, seemed to forget his serious knowledge of national security when he left the house on January 13th of last year. Grabbing the “wrong bag” from his house, the one with a loaded gun inside, he tried to board a plane at Ronald Reagan Washington Airport. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge for carrying a weapon into an airport terminal. I would like to repeat: a senior SECURITY advisor in the Trump administration tried to carry a loaded weapon onto a plane. Of course, it was nothing to take “seriously.”
So the man who is the Deputy Assistant to the President, who you could say in another way is a radicalized foreigner, carries a loaded gun into an airport…and that’s a simple mistake? I had my teeny tiny baby nail scissors confiscated from my carry-on once. I guess it’s the same diff Bas? (I can’t even get into why he would leave an unsecured, loaded weapon in a piece of luggage laying around the family home.)
Lucky for him, he’s not from an Arab country. A billionaire judge in VA decided to dismiss the charges on the VERY DAY Gorka started his job in security. At the White House. Of the United States. Of America.
Another important part of this shadow team of principals is Gen. Michael Flynn, the current National Security Advisor. He famously chanted “Lock her up!” at the Republican Convention and is an avid conspiracy theorist, but even more troubling is this story: another chapter in threats to national security conceived, created and executed by America’s “very serious national security team.”
Flynn’s own Chief of Staff, his son Michael Flynn Jr., who has since been removed from the team, famously tweeted (and his father re-tweeted, see below) the crazy dangerous assertion that a certain pizza restaurant in our nation’s capital was a front for a child sex-slave ring run by then Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. And then his father, the country’s soon-to-be National Security Advisor, sent out a re-tweet AFTER a man fired his weapon inside said restaurant, terrorizing staff and customers, as he tried to self-investigate the hoax on Sunday December 4th.
Again, this is the NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR. To the President. Of the United States. Of America.
This is the definition of radicalization.
Now, let’s look closely at the January 27th executive order to ban immigrant travel which came ironically one day before the executive order to change the format of the National Security Council. News of the formatting change was almost buried under the #muslimban controversy and and the worldwide chaos that ensued.
Before Trump was sworn in as President, staff members from the House Judiciary Committee, headed by Bob Goodlatte from Virginia, were made to sign non-disclosure agreements and work in private on the travel ban. A project so private even Goodlatte didn’t know. (Side note: the House Judiciary Committee is also in charge of impeachments.)
Goodlatte gave permission for his staff to work with the Trump team but evidently did not know what specifically they were working on as the executive action took Goodlatte (and the entire Congress) by surprise. Goodlatte said early on that “my staff on the House Judiciary Committee are some of the best on Capitol Hill. They are experts in their respective fields and I proudly allowed them to provide their expertise to the Trump transition team on immigration law. To be clear, while they gave advice to the new Administration, they did not have decision making authority on the policy. The final decision was made at the highest levels of the Trump Administration, and I support the President’s executive order. My staff had no control of the language contained in the President’s executive order, the timing of the announcement, the rollout and subsequent implementation, and the coordination with Congress.”
What in the world DID the staffers do then? Adding to the confusion are the countries included in the ban. They were repeatedly referred to by the Trump team as being “Obama’s picks.” Why if you had all these Harvard-educated security specialists, military intelligence and the hush-hush advice of the entire staff of the House Judiciary Committee – experts in their field – would you knee-jerk accept the outgoing president’s choice for the most dangerous countries to focus on? Especially when conservatives have made it clear again and again that the outgoing President’s weak terrorism policy brought us where we are today.
Of course, it is easy to say, well that way they could just blame Obama when it failed, but that seems short-sighted. Regardless, the Trump team loves to say Obama’s name so maybe that’s all it is.
Another White House Senior Advisor/Puppeteer Stephen Miller said there was “a months-long drafting process,” and that it was an “extremely carefully thought out, carefully implemented proposal.”
So again, just to be clear, you’re telling me that with all these staffers, all this intelligence, months of drafting, being so “careful” that THIS roll-out, in the end, this the result you’re proud of? This hastily thrown together, totally-rushed executive order without any congressional oversight that borrows from the outgoing President’s failed terrorism policy and leaves the world in total turmoil is from the best of the best?
Well, yes and no. No, this order does not belie the efforts of the smart staffers at the House Judiciary Committee, or of our military or intelligence officers, or those folks who signed non-disclosure agreements and were probably told they didn’t have to show up to work. This was the mastermind of the guy that wrote this speech, has the President’s ear and a shiny new seat on the Security Council. He is FOR REAL anti-establishment. He’s anti-establishment AF. He’s also Anti-American. And that’s where the yes comes in. Yes, this was by design. And yes, they are very, very proud of it and the anarchy it is causing.
The day after the order rolled out, there was allegedly a 2am conference call during which Bannon and Miller silenced Flynn, Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (who had not yet been confirmed) telling them to keep quiet about their lack of involvement in the order and to tow the line…which they did.
PAGE THREE of the rule book: test the troops.
It worked with the embarrassed House Judiciary head Goodlatte, “I am pleased that President Trump is using the tools granted to him by Congress and the power granted by the Constitution to help keep America safe and ensure we know who is entering the United States. It’s sensible to hit pause on admitting foreign nationals and refugees from countries where adequate screening cannot occur, and it’s long past time for the completion of the Entry-Exit system in order to crack down on those who overstay their visas. I look forward to continue working with President Trump to ensure the safety and security of our great nation.”
The result of this order was catastrophic. The chaos and heartache, the confusion and insecurity, the angry protests from around the country caused by this executive order brought ire from Republican leaders. Bannon did not find them so ready to drink the Kool Aid. This was made clear in a joint statement from John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:
“It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. We fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”
One of my favorite quotes is from Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. He told reporters regarding the ban Monday, Jan. 30: “I guess one of you guys probably told me about it. Thank you for that.” He added, “I think they understand that this was not handled in the most productive manner. My guess is next time they attempt to do something that is far-reaching like this there’ll be a lot more communication.”
Sensing the irony was Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, “This was an extreme vetting program that wasn’t properly vetted.”
Many representatives were forced to quickly write and present statements such as these in order to explain their take on the executive actions. A sampling of these historical statements is compiled here. This document is a really fascinating look into where each Congressperson stood; many are sympathetic with green-card holders, those who assisted the military and stand in defiance to any kind of “religious test.”
Testifying in front of Congress on Feb. 7, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said “In retrospect, I should have — this is all on me by the way — I should have delayed it just a bit so I could have talked to members of Congress.”
Interestingly, he also declined to say if he saw the document before Trump signed it but only said he knew the executive order “was coming.” He added, my staff was “generally involved.”
This begs several questions. If the security threat was so high and the need to address it so imperative, why would the Homeland Security department be kept in the dark? Why would the executive order need to be masterminded with such speed and secrecy that even customs officials couldn’t be notified? And how then was it “all on” Kelly? The Strategic Initiatives Group, formed when Bannon was put on to the NSC by presidential proclamation the NEXT DAY may have a lot to do with the hows and whys of the travel ban. This back room order does shine a light on one thing: Bannon’s ability to manipulate the highest level of the White House.
How plausible is it that this shadow NSC was solely responsible for the executive order banning immigration? Did they deliberately lock out Homeland Security and other traditional members of the NSC? It’s hard to prove because there is no paper trail. Usually, a “summary of conclusions” document, or SOC, would have been generated from notes taken at NSC meetings as well as opinions and recommendations from members of the NSC, not to mention the Budget Office and other administrative offices. It would contain final agreements and would be a written resource that could be referred back to for ongoing adjustments in policy. No such SOC exists. Anywhere. For any of this.
This is a serious deterioration of transparency, accountability and a gag order on different viewpoints at the highest level of government. These actions are the building blocks that have helped Bannon centralize power and now, thanks to Bannon’s own design, that power is formalized by executive order.
The shock and dismay over Bannon’s appointment was a bit muffled by the events the day prior, but still present.McCain again: “The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history.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.”
Former White House insiders had grave concerns as well. Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, defense secretary and C.I.A. director said, “The last place you want to put somebody who worries about politics is in a room where they’re talking about national security.”
President George W. Bush’s chief of staff, Josh Bolten, sounded the alarm as well. “I’ve never seen that happen, and it shouldn’t happen. It’s not like he has broad experience in foreign policy and national security issues. He doesn’t. His primary role is to control or guide the president’s conscience based on his campaign promises. That’s not what the National Security Council is supposed to be about.” And again he spoke up at a conference, saying meetings with knowledgeable advisors in the NSC “involve life and death for the people in uniform” and should “not be tainted by any political decisions.”
And let’s run the clip from that original NPR interview Gorka had and get his response on Bannon’s qualifications:
CORNISH: Before I let you go, I want to ask you one other question because you work with the National Security Council, and you’ve worked with Steve Bannon in the past of Breitbart News. What’s the rationale for elevating him as chief strategist to the principals committee of the National Security Council?
GORKA: Your question provides the answer. What is this individual’s title – chief strategist to the president of the United States and senior counselor. The idea that it would be in some way controversial to have the president’s chief strategist in the meetings of the National Security Council, again, is rather a peculiar stance to take. This is a man that provides strategic advice at the highest level to the president. Of course having him in the deliberative body that deals with national security is, again, the injection of common sense.
CORNISH: And people have also talked about Stephen Bannon’s background with the Navy. Most of his adult life has been in the media. How is that experience relevant?
GORKA: I think you need to look at what Stephen Bannon did in terms of building a media giant that has crushed its left-wing rivals in terms of a breitbart.com. I think one has to look at what he did for the Trump campaign to understand that this is a man who eats and breathes and sleeps strategy. Whether or not he wore a uniform, that’s a credit to his service to the nation. But he is really – and I can tell you as somebody who’s worked with him for years – a truly strategic mind.
CORNISH: So of value to national security concerns.
GORKA: Without question.
CORNISH: Well, Sebastian Gorka, thank you so much for speaking with us.
GORKA: It’s my pleasure, anytime. It’s been a delight.
Finally, there is Jared Kushner, son-in-law to the President, unqualified in every sense, unvetted, unconfirmed, answering to no one. He has been given a huge role in the West Wing and like any good SIL will be a non-confrontational yes-man for Trump. Kushner has met with congressional leaders, interviewed potential Cabinet officials and met with foreign leaders. Even though…
Under the 1967 Federal Anti-Nepotism statute, federal officials are prohibited from appointing their immediate family members to certain governmental positions, including those in the Cabinet.
That is still up for debate I guess.
Regardless of political affiliation, the alarm is clearly being sounded. There are people in charge of keeping America SAFE and it is roundly believed they are not qualified for, or trusted in, their current positions. On February 6, Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush and Barack Obama wrote an editorial where he stated, “In my experience there are very few — if any — meetings of the principals committee at which the input of the military and the intelligence community is not vital…The security council facilitates and coordinates, providing a forum through which federal agencies discuss and debate policy and, ultimately, provide counsel to the president about how best to keep the American people safe…Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the principals committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be candid, nonpartisan deliberation. ”
These stories continue to gain traction and there will be many more updates. I hope this helps you set things in your mind in an organized way. This is a dangerous situation and I hope you can stay engaged and aware.
By diminishing the role of the National Security Council and elevating the Bannon-led Strategic Intiatives Group, populated by Gorka and the other henchmen, by eliminating a paper trail, silencing the press and mocking protesters, it is possible for the fringe alt-right to establish a shadow government right inside the White House. And perhaps, in a grab for total power, the jihad Breitbart knows so much about will be waged against its own people. No ban necessary.
That’s enough chattering for now.