I mentioned yesterday that there are rumors of national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s impending departure from his current role, in order to return to the Pentagon.
It’s just rumor, now, and we’ve heard it before, particularly with current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Well, today there is a report in Reuters, regarding both of these men, and sources are saying both are so burdened by near-daily battles with President Trump, that they’re both edging towards the Great Egress.
According to what Reuters says is four senior administration officials, either or both could be gone soon. It would be a blow to this White House, however, since both are seen as steadying forces to an otherwise chaotic, undisciplined, inexperienced president.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have both been named as key administration officials who had “rough patches” with the president, only to overcome and get back on steady ground.
Neither of those men have that well-ordered military background, however.
According to Reuters:
Asked about sources saying that either National Security Adviser McMaster or Chief of Staff Kelly, or both, might be leaving, White House spokesman Raj Shah on Thursday did not address the possibility. He said, “the president has full confidence in each member of the team.” Press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump “still has confidence in General McMaster.”
They are so gone.
Trump swatted McMaster in a Twitter post after his comments at a European conference last weekend that he was certain Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election campaign, which Trump has been reluctant to acknowledge.
This was after news of 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies being indicted by a federal grand jury of crimes including wire fraud and identity theft. Trump not only refused to condemn them, he went nuts attacking the Russia probe that resulted in the indictments.
Kelly and McMaster have chafed at Trump’s treatment of them in public and in private, which both at times have considered insulting, said all four officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The current and most potent irritant, they said, is Kelly’s effort, supported by McMaster, to prevent administration officials who have been unable to obtain permanent high-level security clearances from having access to the government’s most closely held secrets.
That last bit was brought on by the revelation of a violent wife-beater with limited security clearance being put in close proximity to the president.
The new, tightened security process would directly affect White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Kushner has had to re-submit his security clearance forms multiple times, due to his failure to list all of his assets and foreign contacts.
I mean, I’m sure he’s not hiding anything.
“There have been running battles between Trump and his generals,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Kelly is a retired Marine general and McMaster an Army lieutenant general.
“But the clearance business is personal, and if Trump sets special rules for family members, I‘m not sure if Kelly and McMaster would salute,” the official said.
Yes, if they’re the upstanding rule-and-order military men that their reputations claim them to be, they’re not going to take kindly to nepotism being the factor that overrides their duties.
And that’s apparently what’s happening. The White House is looking for a way to give Kushner security clearance that would allow him to see his father-in-law’s daily briefings, which include a lot of sensitive, top secret intelligence from allies, and U.S. spies and covert operations around the world.
To be honest, I’m not even comfortable with Trump seeing those things, but it is what it is.
By law, the president can give anybody clearance that he wants, but White House officials really don’t want to have it appear that Trump is letting his son-in-law have that access, simply because he’s family.
McMaster’s support for Kelly on the security clearance issue is only his latest difference with Trump. Officials in the Defense Department said there have been discussions about him returning to the Army, possibly as head of the Forces Command at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. McMaster, 55, previously served as deputy commander there. Although he has been supportive of Trump on many issues, including threatening North Korea with military action, McMaster has taken a harder stance on Russia than his boss.
Most everyone has, actually.
So this rumor will linger, for a bit. We shouldn’t believe it until it happens. If it does, however, nobody should be surprised.