Jonah Bennett and Saagar Enjeti
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is thwarting President Donald Trump’s foreign policy prescriptions, two former senior NSC officials told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Everything the president wants to do, McMaster opposes,” a former senior official said in a wide-ranging interview. “Trump wants to get us out of Afghanistan — McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to get us out of Syria — McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to deal with the China issue — McMaster doesn’t. Trump wants to deal with the Islam issue — McMaster doesn’t. You know, across the board, we want to get rid of the Iran deal — McMaster doesn’t. It is incredible to watch it happening right in front of your face. Absolutely stunning.”
One former official characterized McMaster as a “sycophant” of retired Army Gen. David Petraeus.
“I know that the president isn’t a big fan of what McMaster’s doing,” the former official declared. “I don’t understand why he’s allowing a guy who is subverting his foreign policy at every turn to remain in place.” he added.
The official continued that he expects a purge of “campaign Trump” loyalists to continue with particular intensity within the next two weeks.
“I just fear there is a real creeping of status quo thinking that is taking over the place. I was upset while I was there in seeing how empowered Obama holdovers under McMaster were to essentially perpetuate Obama-era policies,” another former official told TheDCNF.
Both officials expressed particular concern over the Trump administration’s future policy in Afghanistan.
“The Trumpian view that we were trying to put forward was shut down,” an official declared.
This same official described the Russia desk of the NSC as being temporarily being taken over by an Obama administration holdover who “ran full speed ahead” with the past administration’s approach.
Campaign loyalists and allies of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn have been purged with increasing rapidity in recent weeks, and the battle for the NSC is developing by the day.
BuzzFeed News reported Thursday that Trump hired Cyril Sartor to serve as senior director for Africa, a victory for the CIA, given his past service with them.
While Sartor’s security clearance remains intact, the CIA revoked the clearance of Robin Townley, which effectively forced Townley out in February. The reason for the rejection was that Townley was reportedly too close to Flynn, who has ended up in fights with the intelligence community unlike McMaster.
Politico reported on Tuesday that McMaster also managed to fire top White House intelligence aide Ezra Cohen-Watnick from the NSC, who was previously described by The Atlantic as essentially un-fireable. While Cohen-Watnick and McMaster had apparently begun to mend relations over the last several months, The Atlantic article that described Cohen-Watnick as un-fireable pushed McMaster over the edge, according to a source who spoke with Politico. The Atlantic article further noted that Rich Higgins, senior director for strategic planning, had been fired in late July after writing a memo on globalists and Islamist collaborating to subvert Trump’s policy agenda.
Last Thursday, Derek Harvey, senior director for the Middle East, was kicked off the NSC after complaints directly from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a McMaster ally. Harvey was originally brought in to the NSC by Flynn. Two sources informed The Weekly Standard that Harvey was viewed as being too close with White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, which was a motivating factor in the purge.
At the time, a White House official told TheDCNF that Harvey’s deputies Joel Rayburn and Michael Bell were remaining with the NSC, and earlier this week, Michael Bell permanently took over Harvey’s position.
BuzzFeed News reported in early July that Tera Dahl, deputy chief of staff at the NSC and former Breitbart columnist, was moved out of the council with the expectation she would join USAID. NSC spokesman Michael Anton insisted that Dahl’s initial intent was always to assist with the transition process and then head over to a more policy-oriented role elsewhere in the administration.
Adam Lovinger, another Flynn pick who formerly served as senior director for strategic assessments, was forced out of NSC after he had his security clearance denied on May 1. Lovinger accused anti-Trump bureaucrats of politicizing the security clearance process.
Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland, a close ally to Flynn, was forced out of the NSC in April after McMaster took control of the council in February, but she ended up staying on until May, albeit in a largely sidelined role, and in June, the White House announced McFarland had been tapped for the position of U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. Bannon, who the former senior NSC official described as an “intellectual guardian of camp Trump,” was also pushed out of the NSC principals committee in April.