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Trump removes chief strategist Bannon from National Security Council

Nicholas Kamm, AFP | US President Donald Trump's Senior Counselor Steve Bannon waits for the start of Trump's meeting with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on January 23, 2017.

President Donald Trump has removed chief strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council, reversing a controversial early decision to give Bannon access to the high-level meetings.

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A new memorandum about the composition of the NSC was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. The memo no longer lists the chief strategist as a member of the Principal's Committee, a group of high-ranking officials that convene to discuss pressing national security priorities.

The new memo also restores the director of national intelligence and the Joint Chiefs chairman to the Principal's Committee.

Bannon's addition to the NSC sparked concerns from Trump critics, who said it was inappropriate for the political adviser to play a role on national security matters.

His removal marks "a shake-up within the internal structure of the White House", said FRANCE 24's Washington correspondent, Philip Crowther, though cautioning that it did not necessarily signal a fall-out between Trump and his controversial strategist.

"This doesn't mean Steve Bannon is banished from the White House, quite the contrary," Crowther added. "He is still Donald Trump's special advisor."

Bannon 'still a key player' in the White House team

Trump's White House team has grappled with infighting and palace intrigue. In recent days, several other senior US foreign policy and national security officials have said the mechanisms for shaping the Trump administration's response to pressing challenges such as Syria, North Korea and Iran were still not in place.

Critics of Bannon's role on the NSC said it gave too much weight in decision-making to someone who lacked foreign policy expertise.

Before joining the Trump administration, Bannon headed Breitbart News, a right-wing website.

A White House official told Reuters news agency that Bannon was no longer needed on the NSC after the departure of Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Flynn was forced to resign on Feb. 13 over his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, prior to Trump's taking office on Jan. 20.

The official said Bannon had been placed on the NSC originally as a check on Flynn and had only ever attended one of the NSC's regular meetings.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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