Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will have "full authority" to decide who sits on the National Security Council, but would have to go to President Donald Trump if he chose to remove chief strategist Steve Bannon, the White House said Tuesday.
"Obviously, with something like that, he [McMaster] would come to the president and make that recommendation," and "the president would take that under serious consideration," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said when asked about Bannon's continued presence on the NSC's principals committee.
Otherwise, McMaster will have "full authority to structure the national security team as he wants," Spicer said. "The president has been very clear on that. He will have whatever he needs to implement a successful team."
Trump's appointment last month of Bannon, a former junior Navy officer and publisher of Breitbart News, to the National Security Council has become a lightning rod for critics of the new administration.
On Tuesday, Edward Price, who joined the CIA in 2006 and had been serving as the NSC spokesman, said he resigned last week because of what he called "disturbing" attempts by Trump to discredit the intelligence community.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Price said the "final straw" for him was Trump's appointment of Bannon to the NSC. Price called Bannon "a media champion of white nationalism."
Trump announced Monday that McMaster, 54, a West Point graduate and combat veteran known for his independent thinking, was his choice to replace retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who resigned as White House national security adviser at Trump's direction for misleading Vice President Mike Pence on his Russian contacts.
Spicer confirmed that McMaster will remain on active duty as head of the NSC, as did two predecessors in the post. Retired Army Gen. Colin Powell was on active duty when he served as President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, and so was Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft when he served as national security adviser for President Gerald Ford.
McMaster's appointment as national security adviser is at Trump's discretion and does not require Senate confirmation.
In his daily White House briefing, Spicer also pushed back on reports that Trump's first choice for national security adviser, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, turned down the job because of turmoil on the national security team.
"All of the rumors about the discretion he would have over staff were 100 percent false," Spicer said.
"Admiral Harward made very, very clear he wanted this job," he said, but could not take the post at this time because of family and financial reasons.
Spicer said Harward also told him personally that he would be interested in a White House position if one became open in a year or two.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.