Mostly False
Spicer
The language that's part of the president's National Security Council memo "is identical to the language" used by President George W. Bush in 2001 and President Barack Obama in 2009.

Sean Spicer on Monday, January 30th, 2017 in a daily press briefing

Spicer's misleading claim that Trump's National Security Council is 'identical' to Bush's, Obama's

White House press secretary Sean Spicer attempted to lessen down the upset over President Donald Trump's restructuring of the National Security Council in his Jan. 31, 2017, daily press briefing.

Following outcry over a reported shakeup of the National Security Council, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said stories about demoting the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence were "utter nonsense."

President Donald Trump has been criticized in the media for politicizing the council by adding chief strategist Steve Bannon. Spicer, in his daily press briefing on Jan. 30, 2017, pushed back by claiming that the presidential memorandum announcing the makeup of the council hadn’t really changed dramatically.

"The language that's part of the president's memo is identical to the language for Presidents Bush's 2001," Spicer said, holding up copies of the various memos (around the 6:55 mark of this video). "The only thing that's changed in this is the addition of the Director of National Intelligence as a position that didn't exist in 2001. For what it's worth, it's the same as Obama's, save for the word ‘also.’ "

For those who don’t know, the National Security Council was established in 1947 and gathers foreign and domestic policy and military officials to advise the president on national security.

The two issues with Trump’s restructuring concern the makeup of the full council and its principals committee, a subset of senior officials that is also "literally 100 percent the same," according to Spicer.

So is Spicer right that the Bush, Obama and Trump memos are nearly "identical"?

We read Bush’s 2001 memo, Obama’s 2009 memo and Trump’s 2017 memo, and found that Spicer’s claim is misleading.

The regular council

Spicer is right about the makeup of the full National Security Council, albeit in a limited way.

This sentence — "The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as statutory advisers to the NSC, shall also attend NSC meetings" — appears pretty much verbatim in each president’s memo. (The Director of National Intelligence was a position created in 2004, so Bush’s memo says the CIA Director instead.)

But in a broader sense, Spicer is off the mark. Each president has invited different government officials to sit on the council, but neither Bush nor Obama added his chief strategist. Trump appears to be the only president since the establishment of the council to include his, Bannon, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

By statute, the members of the council are the president, vice president, secretary of state, secretary of defense and, as of 2007, secretary of energy. As noted in the memos, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor are statutory advisers.

Here are the additional members each president has requested to join the council (positions unique to each president are bolded):

 

Bush 2001

Obama 2009

Trump 2017

"Regular attendees" or "members"

• Secretary of treasury

• National security adviser

• Secretary of treasury

• National security adviser

• Secretary of homeland security

• Homeland security adviser

• Representative to the United Nations

• Chief of staff

• Deputy national security adviser

• Secretary of treasury

• National security adviser

• Secretary of homeland security

• Homeland security adviser

• Representative to the United Nations

"Invited to attend any meeting"

• Chief of staff

• Economic adviser

• Counsel to the president

• Chief of staff

• Chief strategist (Bannon)

• Counsel to the president

• Deputy counsel for national security

• Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Invited when appropriate

• Counsel to president

• Attorney general

• Director of the Office of Management and Budget

• Secretary of  commerce

• U.S. Trade representative

• Economic adviser

• Chair of Council of Economic Advisors

Homeland security adviser

• Director of the Office of Science and Technology

• Secretary of  commerce

• U.S. Trade representative

• Economic adviser

 

The principals committee

Similarly, Bannon’s addition to the principals committee undercuts Spicer’s claim that the senior interagency group, first established by former President George H.W. Bush in 1989, is "literally 100 percent the same."

Trump’s memo reads: "The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."

Again, barring the inclusion of the Director of National Intelligence, that is verbatim the language of Bush’s 2001 memo: "The Director of Central Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."

But Obama’s 2009 memo makes clear that Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are "regular members" of the committee.

And again, the chief strategist was not a member in either Bush’s or Obama’s committees (or George H.W. Bush’s or Bill Clinton’s).

Here’s a breakdown of the organization of the principals committee under each president (positions unique to each president are bolded):

 

Bush 2001

Obama 2009

Trump 2017

"Regular attendees" or "members"

• Secretary of state

• Secretary of treasury

• Secretary of defense

• National security adviser

• Chief of staff

• Secretary of state

• Secretary of treasury

• Secretary of defense

• National security adviser

• Chief of staff

• Secretary of homeland security

• Representative to the United Nations

• Director of the Office of Management and Budget

• Director of national intelligence

• Chairman of the joint chief of staff  

• Secretary of state

• Secretary of treasury

• Secretary of defense

• National security adviser

• Chief of staff

• Secretary of homeland security

• Chief strategist (Bannon)

• Homeland security adviser

Invited to or shall attend all meetings

• Vice president

• Deputy national security adviser

• Deputy national security adviser  

• Deputy secretary of state

• Counsel to the president

• National security adviser to the Vice President

• Deputy national security adviser

• Counsel to the president

• National security adviser to the Vice President

• Director of the Office of Management and Budget

• Deputy counsel for national security

• Executive secretary

Invited when appropriate

• CIA director

• Chairman of the joint chief of staff

• Attorney general

• Director of the Office of Management and Budget

• Counsel to President

• Secretary of commerce

• U.S. Trade Representative

• Economic adviser

• Secretary of Agriculture

• Secretary of  commerce

• U.S. Trade representative

• Economic adviser

• Chair of Council of Economic Advisors

• Homeland security adviser

Director of the Office of Science and Technology

• Director of national intelligence

• Chairman of the joint chief of staff

• Secretary of commerce

• U.S. Trade representative

• Economic adviser

• Representative to the United Nations

Intergovernmental and technology initiatives adviser

 

Our ruling

Spicer said, "The language that's part of the president's memo (on the National Security Council) is identical to the language for Presidents Bush's 2001" as well as President Obama’s 2009.

We reached out to the Trump administration but did not hear back.

Spicer is right in a limited sense: each memo specifies that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence are statutory advisers to the regular council.

While both the Bush and Trump memos stipulated they attend principals committee meetings when appropriate, both were regular members of the subcommittee under Obama.

Trump also includes one major departure from both Bush and Obama: adding the position of chief strategist as a member of both the regular council and principals committee.

Spicer’s claim that the memos are identical rates Mostly False.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/3b66fd71-c0f3-4b31-863b-eefc0a689f2e