We’re still not sure where to land on President Trump’s new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, but we’re growing more and more suspicious by the day of his National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster. Several reports this week paint McMaster as a man who is trying desperately to not only consolidate power in the West Wing, but also to undermine Trump’s very specific goals when it comes to national security and foreign policy. Frankly, he’s behaving like a Democrat who wants to limit the president’s authority, and if Trump is thinking about sending this guy to Afghanistan to manage the war, well, that might be just far enough away for the 3-star general to stop causing trouble.
This week, we learned from a few news accounts that McMaster has been busy in recent weeks cleaning the National Security Council of any remnants of the brief Michael Flynn era. On Wednesday, he fired NSC Intelligence Director Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and earlier this month he fired Rich Higgins for a memo he’d written about the “globalists” who were trying to undermine the Trump administration. Some reports say that McMaster is merely getting rid of dead weight analysts who have been presenting the president with foreign policy plans Trump doesn’t like; others say McMaster himself is the one who can’t seem to please the president, and he’s removing anyone who might take Trump’s side.
But office politics aside, what really concerns us is this new report from Circa, which reveals that McMaster wrote a letter protecting Obama’s former national security adviser, Susan Rice.
The undated and unclassified letter from McMaster was sent in the mail to Rice’s home during the last week of April. Trump was not aware of the letter or McMaster’s decision, according to two senior West Wing officials and an intelligence official, who spoke to Circa on condition that they not be named.
“I hereby waive the requirement that you must have a ‘need-to-know’ to access any classified information contained in items you ‘originated, reviewed, signed or received while serving,’ as National Security Adviser,” the letter said. The letter also states that the “NSC will continue to work with you to ensure the appropriate security clearance documentation remains on file to allow you access to classified information.”
We don’t have a direct line to the Oval Office, so we’ll stop short of accusing McMaster of insubordination here, but we’ll be damned if we can come up with any other explanation. Rice is under investigation by the House Intelligence Committee for her role in unmasking the names of Trump campaign officials caught on incidental foreign surveillance, and the president himself has suggested she may be guilty of violating the law. Why, then, would his national security adviser go behind his back to ensure that Rice retains her clearances?
Trump needs loyal people around him right now, and we’re not at all convinced that McMaster fits the bill.