Democrats are warning President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon not to use his position at Breitbart to share classified and sensitive information he collected while at the White House.
“Steve Bannon has an ongoing obligation to safeguard our nation’s secrets, and he does not gain some kind of extra Constitutional protection just because he is now returning to a position in the media,” according to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
Cummings warned that lawmakers closely watch people in such positions after they leave high-level security positions. He said Bannon should not publish articles in Breitbart that are based on classified material he may have picked up while working in the White House.
“If he or anyone else in a similar position fails to meet this obligation and provides classified information to someone who is not entitled to have it, he could and should be brought to justice,” Cummings stated.
Rachel Cohen, press secretary for Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Bannon is under strict limitations.
“Bannon is subject to all the same legal restrictions on sharing classified information to which he was exposed in his role at the White House as any other former government employee,” she said. “Those who violate those restrictions can be subject to prosecution.”
Bannon left his position at the White House on Friday and immediately returned to the conservative-leaning website, Breitbart, which he ran until joining the Trump campaign team in the summer of 2016.
The president praised Bannon’s return to Breitbart on Twitter: “Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews…maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!”
Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews…maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
But inside the White House, aides expressed concern that Bannon will use the position to attack the administration’s policies. It was well-known that Bannon’s policy positions were not exactly aligned with those advocated by other Trump advisers, including first daughter Ivanka and her husband and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.
Speculations that Bannon will likely lash out at those who fought him in the White House have been widespread. According to Vanity Fair, Bannon is “about to go nuclear” in his “war” with Kushner. A CNN interview with Joshua Green, author of “Devil’s Bargain,” a book about Bannon and Trump, said that Bannon is about to “go buck wild” in his criticism of “the establishment.”
Citing a “source with direct knowledge,” Breitbart on Monday exposed a smidgen of White House intrigue when the news site laid blame at the feet of the president’s staff for Trump’s seemingly casual “that’s too bad” answer to a question about the crash of the USS John McCain that left 10 sailors missing.
Breitbart suggested that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had failed to brief Trump on the accident, which means that the president was unaware of the situation when he made his short statement.
As one of Trump’s closest advisers, Bannon had access to extraordinary amounts of classified information on NATO business, nuclear threats posed by North Korea and Iran, and the strength of Islamic terrorist movements.
However, Bannon doesn’t have to expose sensitive or classified information to wreak havoc in the White House. Just before he left the White House, Bannon held an interview with the liberal-leaning American Prospect which reportedly infuriated White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it,” said Bannon, adding, “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no military solution here; they got us.”
Members of the Trump administration might not like these types of quotes coming from a former insider, but Bannon’s not giving away classified information. Until he does, it looks like they’ll just have to deal with it.
As Breitbart’s editor-in-chief Alex Marlow said on Friday after Bannon reclaimed his leadership position at the news outlet: “The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today. Breitbart gained an executive chairman with his finger on the pulse of the Trump agenda.”
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