President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said his staff was “bloated” when he took over last year and that he plans to reduce it to about 100 people, after an aide who testified in the House impeachment inquiry was dismissed on Friday.
“We think a more efficient NSC and leaner NSC is a more effective NSC,” O’Brien told reporters traveling with Trump to a campaign rally in New Hampshire on Monday, using the abbreviation for the National Security Council.
“This is something that people in both parties have been concerned about in the past, the size of the NSC,” O’Brien added. “So I think we’ve streamlined it. We’re reforming it.”
On Friday, the White House dismissed NSC aides Alexander and Yevgeny Vindman following Trump’s acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial. Alexander Vindman, a lieutenant colonel in the Army, had testified in the House impeachment trial in response to a subpoena. His twin, Yevgeny, was a senior lawyer and ethics official for the NSC. The White House has not offered any official explanation for the ouster of either of the Vindmans.
Most of the NSC’s staff is made up of career officials on loan from other government agencies, including the Defense and State departments. They routinely return to their home agencies after serving a rotation at the White House, but Trump has suggested Alexander Vindman was removed in retaliation for his testimony.
O’Brien took over the NSC after former National Security Advisor John Bolton was dismissed in September. Trump ordered a reduction in the NSC’s staff after a whistle-blower reported concern about the president’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he asked for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
O’Brien offered veiled criticism of Bolton in his remarks to reporters, saying he had “restored process to the NSC.”
“We’re bringing the deputies and principals in to give their best advice, the best information they’ve got on the issues we’re facing and their opinions so we can get those to the president,” he said. “We’re very happy with how that’s going.”