Trump’s reshuffle: the McMaster Chronicles — part 1

My last post discussed the dismissal of HR McMaster.

Yet, there is so much more than can be written.

I accumulated many more bookmarks about the general than I’d thought, so please grab a cuppa and a snack before proceeding.

This is the first instalment chronicling General HR McMaster’s time in the Trump administration.

HR McMaster issued his farewell statement on Friday, April 6, 2018.

It is a gracious statement.

However, two days earlier, USA Today reported that he made remarks critical of the Trump administration in his final public appearance as national security adviser at a speech to an Atlantic Council gathering in Washington:

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said the U.S. and other nations had failed to be tough enough against Russia’s “pernicious” aggression that combines political, economic and cyber attacks on democratic countries …

McMaster’s toughest rhetoric to date was in contrast to public comments from President Trump who has refrained from publicly criticizing Putin. It also echoed remarks last month by ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who expressed his concern that Russia’s behavior had only worsened in the fact of attempts by the U.S. to work constructively with Moscow.

During a press appearance Tuesday with the leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Trump defended his Kremlin policy, saying, “Nobody has been tougher on Russia, but getting along with Russia would be a good thing, not a bad thing. And just about everybody agrees to that except very stupid people.”

Lebanese journalist Hisham Melhem tweeted a link to the article and this message:

blasts ’s ‘pernicious ‘aggression’ against democratic states, and warned against those who would ‘glamorize and apologize’ for regimes like Russia. Me think he was talking about his former boss, the hollow man.

But Axios saw it otherwise (emphasis in the original):

Worth noting: McMaster made no criticism of President Trump during his speech. He praised the recent sanctions against Russia and the expulsions of Russian diplomats, and cited some of Trump’s speeches as examples of speaking the truth about authoritarianism.

On another topic, McMaster’s tenure as national security adviser was known for its leaks. On March 25, Raw Story reported that former Fox News host Eric Bolling gave an interview to CNN, during which he:

suggested that President Donald Trump should humiliate National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster because he is suspected of leaking embarrassing White House information …

According to the former Fox News personality, Trump has not been served well by people like McMaster, who is a three-star general but has been forced into retirement by the Trump administration …

“I got really upset,” Bolling said. “You really need to stop the leaks. These leaks are ridiculous. You can’t have a conversation without five minutes later, the press getting his reaction to a conversation he had with a world leader — the press is already printing, they’re talking about it! We’re talking about it on TV!”

Let’s go back to the beginning. On February 20, 2017, Trump tweeted:

Just named General H.R. McMaster National Security Advisor.

The Conservative Treehouse posted on McMaster’s appointment:

Today President Donald Trump announced Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser, to replace General Flynn. McMaster’s Chief of Staff will be General Keith Kellogg.

Trump had reached his decision after having interviewed generals at Mar a Lago that weekend. In fact, he made the announcement from there.

The Gateway Pundit had a good round-up of various news sites about McMaster, all of which sounded positive.

Also positive was Obama’s NSA, Susan Rice, the great unmasker:

Congrats to Lt Gen McMaster. I wish you every success as National Security Advisor.

Hmm.

Also:

Hope you will be able to choose your team, have direct reporting and daily access to POTUS, and can eliminate Strategic Initiatives Group.

On February 22, the Daily Mail reported that then press secretary Sean Spicer stated that Trump gave McMaster ‘100 per cent control’ over National Security Council staff. And:

Spicer even said McMaster would be given consideration if he made the case for booting Trump whisperer Steven Bannon from the security council. Bannon earned a spot on the panel of top security officials under an executive order Trump signed in his first days in power.

On February 24, the Free Beacon reported that McMaster had no witch hunts in mind, which his staff found ‘reassuring’. He also assigned them a reading list, which included Trump’s The Art of the Deal:

and several other tomes by leading historians about how to get the upper hand on America’s enemies. White House staff are said to have been mostly “thrilled” when hearing about the book list …

In addition to Trump’s “Art of the Deal,” McMaster recommended reading his own book, “Dereliction of Duty,” which catalogues the mistakes that led the United States into a quagmire in Vietnam.

He also suggested that White House staffers read Peter Rodman’s “Presidential Command,” which McMaster reportedly referred to as the “gold standard” in foreign policy history. Rodman was a top official in the Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and both Bush administrations.

Senior White House staff are said to have found the mention of the book “very reassuring.”

The New York Times focussed on something more significant that day, McMaster’s views on Islam and David Petraeus’s support for his promotion in 2007. This is important:

“McMaster, like Obama, is someone who was in positions of leadership and thought the United States should not play into the jihadist propaganda that this is a religious war,” Mr. [William] McCants [a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The ISIS Apocalypse”] said …

Known for challenging his superiors, General McMaster was nearly passed over for the rank of brigadier general in 2007, until Gen. David H. Petraeus, who used his counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, and Robert M. Gates, then the defense secretary, rallied support for him.

On March 14, Politico reported that McMaster wanted to move the NSC’s senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, to another position in the organisation. He was a Michael Flynn appointee:

The conversation followed weeks of pressure from career officials at the CIA who had expressed reservations about the 30-year-old intelligence operative and pushed for his ouster.

Cohen-Watnick, however, had friends in high places:

Cohen-Watnick appealed McMaster’s decision to two influential allies with whom he had forged a relationship while working on Trump’s transition team — White House advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. They brought the matter to Trump on Sunday, and the president agreed that Cohen-Watnick should remain as the NSC’s intelligence director, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

Politico explained:

Cohen-Watnick and Flynn “saw eye to eye about the failings of the CIA human intelligence operations,” said a Washington consultant who travels in intelligence circles. “The CIA saw him as a threat, so they tried to unseat him and replace him with an agency loyalist,” the operative said.

He was fired that summer. Wikipedia says:

The White House announced Cohen-Watnick’s dismissal on August 2, 2017, following policy disagreements with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster over Afghanistan, Iran, and Intelligence Oversight.[19][20][21] According to the Washington Post, Cohen-Watnick resigned following a power shift under McMaster.[22] …

In late September 2017, Cohen-Watnick was reportedly succeeded by Michael Barry.[24]

Cohen-Watnick recently returned to the Trump administration, this time to the DOJ. More on him in a separate post.

On April 6, 2017, the attack on Syria occurred. That day, McMaster gave a briefing in which he said that extensive meetings had taken place with the president about the course of action to take. CNBC’s Christina Wilkie tweeted:

It’s actually far more candid than we usually hear, esp where national security is concerned.

The father of the neocons and anti-Trumper Bill Kristol tweeted:

The replacement of Flynn by McMaster is the single most important–and most hopeful–event of the Trump presidency so far.

Trump supporters’ spidey senses kicked into action. Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson tweeted:

McMaster just said goal was to “simultaneously” take out ISIS and Assad.

In other words, another total quagmire.

Independent journalist Mike Cernovich started getting information around this time which he published on Medium. Although his account has since been suspended, these were the headlines from his articles, both of which were from April 9:

Cernovich: H. R. McMaster Manipulating Intelligence Reports to Trump, Wants 150,000 Ground Soldiers in Syria

Cernovich: Petraeus and McMaster have Taken Over the NSC, Want Massive Ground War with Syria

Fortunately, blogger Hornfans has a summary of Cernovich’s articles. The disgraced general, David Petraeus, was allegedly getting involved, supposedly advising McMaster behind the scenes.

Personnel changes were also underway that were unfavourable to Trump loyalists. From Hornfans’ link (emphases in the original):

McMaster is forcing out K.T. McFarland, a Trump ally who opposes a massive ground war in Syria.

Major General Ricky Waddell, a Petraeus loyalist, is McMaster’s choice to replace K. T. McFarland.

McFarland went, but Reince Priebus, then chief of staff, blocked Waddell’s appointment.

Hornfans had more HR news about HR:

McMaster pushed out Steve Bannon earlier last week.

President Trump on Wednesday removed controversial White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon from the National Security Council …

Petraeus’s manuvering began months ago. Through his connections with deep state, he has been able to have the background checks of Trump supporters sabotaged.

Trump loyalist Robin Townley had his security clearance application denied, despite the fact that Townley, a war hero, already had a top secret security clearance.

Susan Rice, who unmasked Americans in an unprecedent[ed] spying scandal, advised H.R. McMaster to purge the NSC of Trump loyalists.

McMaster tried hiring Benghazi liar Linda Weissgold to work for him at the NSC.
How could a proven fraud like Linda Weissgold obtain a security clearance let alone be hired for the NSC?

Watch NSC personnel moves closely. Trump supporters are out, pro-war Petraeus puppets are in.
Susan Rice, who unmasked Americans in a spying scandal, is advising H.R. McMaster.

I didn’t much care for McMaster anyway, but after this, I went off him completely. Of course, there were plenty of pro-Trump conservatives who would have considered this disloyal, because if you don’t like the president’s staff, you don’t like him. Utter rubbish, but it persists to this day, the current subject being Jeff ‘Sleepy’ Sessions.

My suspicions were further confirmed on April 13, when another independent journalist, Jack Posobiec, tweeted the link to a Washington Times article with this comment:

HR McMaster – “Dont’ say Radical Islamic Terror, because the Terrorists are un-Islamic”

From the article:

President Trump said a lot in his superb Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress. One of the most important returned to a distinguishing points of his presidential campaign. Mr. Trump said, “We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism” …

Why then did Mr. Trump hire as his national security advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who refuses to use the term? Gen. McMaster has reportedly told the National Security Council staff that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic.” That has been his position for years. For example, in a November 2016 address to the Center for Leadership Ethics, Gen. McMaster said that Daesh [ISIS] is an example of the terrorist “enemy who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to incite hatred and justify horrific cruelty against innocents.”

That same day, Disobedient Media revealed that McMaster had been part of a Soros-linked think tank:

National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s past affiliation with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has created fresh concerns after research conducted by Disobedient Media revealed that the British think tank has taken funding from multiple governments in the Middle East and organizations tied to George Soros. McMaster’s former position with the IISS indicates a potential conflict of interest given the think tanks’ financial ties to sponsors who are anti-American and in some cases, states sponsors of terrorism …

From September 2006 to February 2017, H.R. McMaster served at the IISS as a Consulting Senior Fellow. The IISS’ website indicates that McMaster focused on topics relating to conflict and conflict prevention, development and security, civil-military relations and military history. McMaster’s close, longstanding ties to the IISS create concerns about conflicts of interest given the think tank’s financial connections to multiple foreign states across the Middle East and Asia, as well as figures like George Soros who are actively seeking to resist the administration of Donald Trump after the latter’s defeat of Soros-supported candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

On April 16, The Conservative Treehouse took exception to the Washington Times‘s criticism of McMaster and posted a news interview with him:

The people selling this narrative are both nuts and gnats.

Please pay attention to HR McMaster in this interview laying out a very reasonable perspective on the various regional issues, his praise for the diplomatic approach by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and his accompanying overview to include (@10:38) the answer to the question: “do you think we need more troops in Syria?“.  McMaster’s response: “I don’t think so“.

That day, McMaster was in Afghanistan.

The inimitable blogger Lame Cherry, whom I read several years ago has an intel background, had a go at McMaster over Afghanistan, where he commanded US and Allied forces between 2003 and 2005:

We seem to have a bit of an overreach in the abilities that President Donald Trump is trusting in to make final decisions, like in starting world war.

It seems after Ivanka told her dad to Tomahawk Syria, that everyone knew what Sec. Mattis and HR McMaster was going to do, even John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Lindsey Graham.

The thing is Dr. Strangepud AKA HR McMaster is sort of famous for writing a book on Vietnam which he blames civilian leadership or something. See McMaster is like a military guy, he wears a uniform, even if he is bald and looks like Daddy Warbucks, and while he writes a boring book on history, he sort of misses the point in endless diatribes of some key points.

Key point 1: Before Vietnam ever began, the war gamers stated it would cost 65,000 dead Americans …

That is why it is bizarre that Strangepud was dispatched to Afghanistan to ascertain why it is a disaster. I sort of could point out that McMaster was the guru who was plugged into this from the start, so he probably should not need a trip to the stan to figure out what is plane as the Mr. Clean shine on his head …

Yes, dude has been front seat for decades and he had to go to where he came from to tell President Trump what is the problem which he created as America is in this mess due to Strangepud …

Seriously Donald Trump might as well have picked some retard dressed in camo who throws darts at a map as it would be just as effective of foreign policy.

Trump and Co’s trip to Saudi Arabia took place at the end of April. Mike Cernovich’s tweets were terrific. Unfortunately, these two are down, but here are the texts:

Apr 23 Mike Cernovich ?? on Twitter: “Trump’s face when McMaster, globalist Gary [Cohn], and his mistress tell you to bow before Saudi “royalty.” https://t.co/RKXIjONzWR”

Apr 26 Mike Cernovich ?? on Twitter: “McMaster, globalist Gary, and Dina Powell support this. https://t.co/AIkDorFG1b”

The second link is about a young atheist who was beheaded there at the time for apostasy.

During the trip, Infowars picked up a scathing article from Information Liberation pointing out that Trump was getting support from all the wrong people and that a coup of sorts was in the works (emphasis in the original):

Neocon war hawk Paul Wolfowitz is now “optimistic” about President Trump and privately emailing HR McMaster and James Mattis to whore for more wars in the Middle East.

There could be no worse sign than Lindsey Graham and Paul Wolfowitz getting on the Trump train.

As I said before, there’s been a deep state/neocon coup and it’s getting clearer by the day Trump is no longer running the show …

Commentators who had supported Trump in 2016 were leaving the train. Among them were Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich, who, on April 30, tweeted:

McMaster reversed .

Cernovich included a link to a Fox News article wherein McMaster told Chris Wallace that the US would pay for the $1 billion THAAD missile defence system in South Korea:

He spoke days after President Trump said South Korea should pay for the anti-missile system and hours after Seoul said that McMaster had assured its chief national security officer, Kim Kwan-jin, about the deal.

“The last thing I would ever do is contradict the president of the United States,” McMaster also told Fox News. “And that’s not what it was. What the president has asked us to do, is to look across all of our alliances and to have appropriate burden sharing-responsibility sharing. We’re looking at that with our great ally South Korea, we’re looking at that with NATO.”

The Conservative Treehouse posted a video link to the interview and said:

Previously, some people, stimulated by the worries of annoying arbitrary gnat nonsense, expressed concern that McMaster might be inclined to lean the President Trump administration further toward an interventionist foreign policy.

If you listen to the numerous interviews McMaster has given since taking on the role of National Security Adviser you can clearly sense that President Trump has clear eyes and a firm grip on any McMaster lean.

Secretary T-Rex is the preferred policy point, and doing brilliantly.  McMaster represents the AWACS covering Tillerson’s travel, and Mattis is the archangel on his shoulder.

On May 8, Cernovich posted an article on Medium, the title of which was:

President McMaster? — McMaster to Meet with Trump to Discuss Who is Running the White House

That day, Eli Lake wrote an excellent article for Bloomberg, ‘Washington Loves General McMaster, But Trump Doesn’t’:

… inside the White House, the McMaster pick has not gone over well with the one man who matters most. White House officials tell me Trump himself has clashed with McMaster in front of his staff.

On policy, the faction of the White House loyal to senior strategist Steve Bannon is convinced McMaster is trying to trick the president into the kind of nation building that Trump campaigned against. Meanwhile the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, is blocking McMaster on a key appointment.

McMaster’s allies and adversaries inside the White House tell me that Trump is disillusioned with him. This professional military officer has failed to read the president — by not giving him a chance to ask questions during briefings, at times even lecturing Trump.

Presented with the evidence of this buyer’s remorse, the White House on Sunday evening issued a statement from Trump: “I couldn’t be happier with H.R. He’s doing a terrific job.”

Other White House officials however tell me this is not the sentiment the president has expressed recently in private. Trump was livid, according to three White House officials, after reading in the Wall Street Journal that McMaster had called his South Korean counterpart to assure him that the president’s threat to make that country pay for a new missile defense system was not official policy. These officials say Trump screamed at McMaster on a phone call, accusing him of undercutting efforts to get South Korea to pay its fair share.

This was not an isolated incident …

The article went on to say that, privately, Trump expressed regret for appointing McMaster. Yes! The president did not have all the information and facts to hand. Look who pops into the picture at this point (emphases mine):

Last Monday, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, who was a finalist for McMaster’s job, met with Trump to discuss a range of issues with the National Security Council. White House officials tell me the two discussed the prospect of Bolton coming in as McMaster’s deputy, but eventually agreed it was not a good fit.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Eli Lake wrote that the tensions began in February:

when the general was hired after his first meeting with the president.

(Think back to the aforementioned New York Times article of February 24.)

That happened around the time Trump addressed both houses of Congress:

McMaster pleaded with the president not to use phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” He sent memos throughout the government complaining about a draft of that speech that included the phrase. But the phrase remained. When Trump delivered the speech, he echoed his campaign rhetoric by emphasizing each word: “Radical.” “Islamic.” “Terrorism.”

Lake wrote that personnel changes also ruffled feathers, beginning with the aforementioned Ezra Cohen-Watnick. Lake corroborated the story above that Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner intervened successfully.

There was another personnel issue that Lake covered:

Bannon and Trump, according to White House officials, pressed McMaster to fire a list of Obama holdovers at the National Security Council who were suspected of leaking to the press. The list of names was compiled by Derek Harvey, a former Defense Intelligence Agency colonel who was initially hired by Flynn. McMaster balked. He refused to fire anyone on the list and asserted that he had the authority to fire and hire National Security Council staff. He also argued that many of these appointees would be ending their rotation at the White House soon enough.

Recall from upthread that McMaster and his predecessor Susan Rice were — and are — on friendly terms.

Lake concluded:

For now the White House is saying the president and his national security adviser are in sync. Trump said in his statement to me that he couldn’t be happier with the general. Of course, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway assured the public in February that Trump had full confidence in McMaster’s predecessor. Only a few hours later, he was forced to resign.

Cernovich posted two more articles on Medium. One was on May 9:

McMaster’s Meltdown — Tells Staff he will not deal with “that high schooler” Hope Hicks

I don’t remember the details of the story anymore, but it did create another media narrative for a few days.

The other Cernovich article appeared on May 11:

Make the NSC Democrat Again — McMaster’s Plan to Purge the NSC of “America First” Policy Goals

Hmm: Susan Rice, David Petraeus, Obama holdovers.

Is anyone spotting a pattern here?

Coming soon: Part 2 of the McMaster Chronicles

4 comments for “Trump’s reshuffle: the McMaster Chronicles — part 1

  1. April 14, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    “there were plenty of pro-Trump conservatives who would have considered this disloyal”

    The general feeling I get from Deplorables over there is that McMaster is persona non grata.

    • April 15, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Yes, the vast majority strenuously opposed McMaster.

      However, there is a sizeable rump of Deplorables who believe that criticising any of Trump’s appointees is criticising Trump himself.

      The site I’m quoting in these articles is one of them. You could not criticise McMaster there without commenters telling you in so many words that you were being disloyal to Trump or that you were a troll. That site has countless readers — and deservedly so — but I do disapprove of the blanket loyalty policy. Disclosure: I never criticised McMaster there, because I read the flak others got.

      Similarly, The_Donald on Reddit (over half a million subscribers and millions of visitors) took a stance some time ago to report only positive news about Trump and his administration. I rarely lurk there anymore.

  2. Pcar
    April 14, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Churchmouse,

    Thanks. I read it as:

    Susan Rice congratulating McMaster on his appointment should have been a warning to Trump.

    Let’s assume it was, but Trump had interviewed McMaster and had confidence he would be on-side.

    PJW exposes some facts that suggest McMaster is a Swamp agent.

    Trump keeps an eye on him, concludes McMaster is a Swamp agent and sacks him.

    Better than usual politico tactic of promote or move sideways.

    Trump is a business man who has taken over a failing business and is trying to turn it around to be profitable again. Hires, fires and experiments to be expected.

    Something not working? Ignore sunk-costs, end it. Something UK Gov’t refuses to do.

    • April 15, 2018 at 5:03 pm

      Yes, I agree with your assessment 110%, Pcar.

      It should have happened sooner, but at least it happened.

      ‘Something not working? Ignore sunk-costs, end it.’ Trump is doing something US politicians never did — at least not in living memory.

      ‘Something UK Gov’t refuses to do.’ Few governments do. Career politicians around the world realise their fellow politicians — and civil servants — are in government for the long haul. They cater to that on purpose.

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