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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump removed his chief strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council on Wednesday, reversing his controversial decision early this year to give a political adviser an unprecedented role in security discussions.

Trump’s overhaul of the NSC, confirmed by a White House official, also elevated General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence who heads all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. The official said the change moves the NSC “back to its core function of what it’s supposed to do.”

It also appears to mark a victory for national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who had told some national security experts he felt he was in a “battle to the death” with Bannon and others on the White House staff.

Vice President Mike Pence said Bannon would continue to play an important role in policy and played down the shake-up as routine.

“This is just a natural evolution to ensure the National Security Council is organized in a way that best serves the president in resolving and making those difficult decisions,” Pence said on Fox News.

Trump’s White House team has grappled with infighting and intrigue that has hobbled his young presidency. In recent days, several other senior U.S. 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 still were 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.

Bannon, who was chief executive of Trump’s presidential campaign in the months leading to his election in November, in some respects represents Trump’s “America First” nationalistic voice, helping fuel his anti-Washington fervor and pushing for the president to part ways at times with mainstream Republicans.

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

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called the shift in the NSC a positive step that will help McMaster “gain control over a body that was being politicized by Bannon’s involvement.”

“As the administration’s policy over North Korea, China, Russia and Syria continues to drift, we can only hope this shake-up brings some level of strategic vision to the body,” he said.

Bannon’s removal from the NSC was a potential setback for his sphere of influence in the Trump White House, where he has a voice in most major decisions.

But a Trump confidant said Bannon remained as influential as ever.

“He is still involved in everything and still has the full confidence of the president but to be fair he can only do so much stuff,” the confidant said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The White House official said 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 attended one of the NSC’s regular meetings.

The official dismissed questions about a power struggle between Bannon and McMaster, saying they shared the same world view.

However, two current national security officials rejected the White House explanation, noting that two months have passed since Flynn’s departure.

McMaster, they said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also has dueled with Bannon and others over direct access to Trump; the future of deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, a former Fox News commentator; intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a Flynn appointee; and other staffing decisions.

Trump is preparing for his first face-to-face meeting on Thursday and Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping with the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs a key component of their talks.

Bannon’s seat on the NSC’s “principals’ committee,” a group that includes the secretaries of state, defense and other ranking aides, was taken by Rick Perry, who as energy secretary is charged with overseeing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Tom Brown and Bill Trott)

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on CNN Sunday morning with Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show. In part because Democratic reps, like Republican reps, going on Sunday shows is about this coming election, and in part because newscasters are not particularly deep or creative when it comes to talking about politics, Tapper decided to spend a lot of time trying to get Ocasio-Cortez to attack Joe Biden for their differences of political opinions. Newsflash: Ocasio-Cortez, progressive hero, co-author of the ambitious Green New Deal environmental package, and Vice President Joe Biden aren't exactly on the same page as to how to handle climate change.

More to the point, Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether or not she was bothered by the fact that Biden has not said he would outright ban fracking. The move to ban fracking in states across the country has been a seesaw battle of fossil fuel interests fighting against progressive environmentalism and science. Biden's refusal to provide full-throated support for a ban on fracking is disappointing to many of us on the left, but it isn't surprising. Even more importantly, it is below the most essential first step the progressive movement—and the country for that matter—needs to take: getting rid of Donald Trump and getting rid of the Republican majority in the Senate.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be pulled into a pointless argument about fracking with Jake Tapper. Her position is well-reported. So is Biden's. AOC explains very clearly that this is how politics work in a representative democracy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It does not bother me. I believe, and I have a very strong position on fracking. You know, the science is very clear, the methane emissions from fracking are up to 64 times more powerful than CO2 emissions and trapping heat in the air, and just from a perspective of stopping climate change there is a scientific consensus. However, that is my view. Vice President Biden has made very clear that he does not agree with the fracking ban and I consider that, you know—it will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House but we need to focus on winning the White House first. I am happy to make my case but I also understand he is in disagreement on that issue.

Tapper wonders whether this will depress the youth vote, a vote that AOC represents more closely than Biden. This, of course, is literally the only reason Trump and his surrogates have been bringing up this difference of positions the last couple of weeks. The hope is that it will depress the more progressive vote, while spooking some more conservative-leaning folks in fossil-fuel heavy states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Ocasio-Cortez points out that the youth vote over the past couple of years has not simply become more sophisticated since 2016, it has brought in more progressive candidates and officials into local elections. The turnout in 2018 showed that, and Ocasio-Cortez believes that this election is very clearly a choice between Donald Trump, someone who is a non-starter of a human being, and Joe Biden.

Tapper then plays a clip of Biden telling reporters that he isn't "getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time," but that he's talking about getting rid of the subsidies the fake free-marketeers enjoy in the fossil fuel industry. While Tapper is hoping that this will illustrate how Biden isn't AOC and the youth vote may be turned off by this statement, she sees it as an important step in the right direction.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ: When he says we are eliminating subsidies, I think that is, frankly, an important first step. A lot of folks who like to tout themselves as free market capitalists, while still trying to make sure they get as much government subsidy, and propping up of the fossil fuel industry as possible. ... If you do believe in markets, solar and renewable energies are growing less and less expensive by the day in many areas. They are starting to become less expensive than fossil fuels. When you eliminate government subsidies, it becomes more difficult for fossil fuels to compete in the market. I think while the vice president wants to make sure that he is not doing it by government mandate or regulation. I do believe that we are moving towards that future. I believe that there's a way and that we should push that process along but again, the vice president and my disagreements are, I believe, recorded and that is quite all right.