It turns out that all of our outrage over Steve Bannon isn’t just hype. It seems that Bannon’s checkered past and present could make it extremely difficult for him to get the Top Secret security clearance that would allow him to do his job as Trump’s senior adviser. In other words—he may literally not be fit to serve.
Anyone seeking a security clearance would be subject to an extensive background check and investigation by the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Tim Mak of The Daily Beast spoke with a number of experts on that process, and they were unanimous—any ordinary person with Bannon’s history would probably have an uphill battle on his hands to clear those hurdles. Remember, this is a guy who has documented ties to far-right groups both home and abroad, is suspected of voter fraud in Florida, may have taken illegal payments from pro-Trump fat cats, and has a history of domestic violence.
I say “any ordinary person” because, on paper, Trump would have the right to overrule the FBI and ODNI if they find Bannon can’t be trusted with a security clearance. But just because he can doesn’t mean he should. Indeed, Adam Schiff, the ranking Dem on the House Intelligence Committee, was concerned enough to put the FBI and ODNI on notice—don’t give Bannon any special favors.
“Given that the president-elect disregarded what the intelligence community must have been telling him about Russia’s role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee… there are already profound concerns [over whether] he will accept the views of the intelligence community when it differs from his own view of things,” Schiff said. “Were he to move forward with someone that the intelligence community found to be disqualified on the basis of his background checks, that would be another cause for grave concern.”
I’d go further than that. If Trump were to grant Bannon a security clearance despite being told he couldn’t be trusted with one, it would be grounds to demand his resignation. You could even make the argument that it would be an impeachable offense.
So after spending a year kneecapping Hillary over her emails, we may be about to have a senior adviser to the president who probably couldn’t pass a background check.