Update: Bloomberg reports that an official has said that Trump has not decided on McMaster’s removal. And now Sarah Sanders tweets that she spoke to the president and there are no changes at the NSC…
Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster – contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 16, 2018
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Confirming the “purge rumblings” reported earlier, moments ago the Washington Post reported that President Trump has decided to fire H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser, delivering the latest jolt to the senior ranks of his administration.
This latest termination from Trump’s administration makes it 25 departures in Trump’s first 419 days, or on average one every 17 days.
As the WaPo adds, while “Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled,” he is taking the time to execute the move because “he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up, these people said.”
The decision is the latest sign that Trump is wresting back control of his personnel and policy decisions after a string of victories – on tax reform, banking regulations and tariffs – has left him feeling emboldened.
For all of the evident disorder, Trump feels emboldened, advisers said — buoyed by what he views as triumphant decisions last week to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum and to agree to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The president is enjoying the process of assessing his team and making changes, tightening his inner circle to those he considers survivors and who respect his unconventional style, one senior White House official said.
Just days ago, Trump used Twitter to fire Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state whom he disliked, and moved to install his close ally, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in the job. On Wednesday, he named conservative TV analyst Larry Kudlow to replace his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who quit over trade disagreements.
McMaster has long been detested by Trump’s nationalist supporters (including, perhaps most notably, the editors of Breitbart.com). Most of this animosity is tied to McMaster’s refusal to adopt the president’s line regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Several candidates have emerged to become Trump’s third National Security Advisor since his inauguration. The group of candidates includes John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, and Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff of the National Security Council.
As The Independent previously reported, John Bolton is the pro-war, former United Nations ambassador under George W Bush (and was on the shortlist to become Secretary of State).
The anti-Iran and anti-Russia hawk failed to secure a longer term as UN ambassador after Democrats banded together to prevent him.
He served less than two years, during which there was a rise in anti-US sentiment around the world.
In a recent blog, Mr Bolton named the five “gravest” threats to US security abroad: Isis, Iran, North Korea, Russia and China.
President Trump said in 2016 that Mr Bolton was one of his go-to experts on foreign security, and described him as a “tough cookie”.
But selecting Mr Bolton for the top job would break Mr Trump’s pledge to work peacefully with other countries, and would cast doubt over his hopes for a positive relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Bolton told Fox News: “I think we’ve got to begin to treat Russia like the adversary that Putin is currently demonstrating it to be.”
This year, Mr Bolton vocally opposed any attempts to “legitimise” Russia’s efforts to defeat Isis in Syria, contrary to Mr Trump who proposed Russia and Syria should be left alone to “fight it out”.
Joseph “Keith” Kellogg, a former contracting executive, took over when Mike Flynn was fired/resigned…
Kellogg, 72, was born in Ohio and served 36 years in the military: in the army in Vietnam, as a special forces officer in Cambodia, and during the first Iraq war as chief of staff for the 82nd Airborne Division. Kellogg rose to command the airborne division from 1997 to 1998 and later came to national prominence when he served as chief operating officer for Baghdad’s provisional government through 2004 – a year of mistakes by the transitional administration that haunted Iraq through the next decade of war.
He played a critical role in the disastrous US occupation of Iraq as the director of operations of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ran the country after the 2003 invasion.
After his retirement, Kellogg joined a series of contracting firms including tech giant Oracle – the company gave him a leave of absence to help the Bush administration in Iraq. “I was given the opportunity to establish a homeland security business unit at Oracle,” he told the Washington Post in 2005, “based on the skills I developed in the military and on the value that information technology can bring to homeland security.”
Kellogg travels with Trump on many domestic trips, in part because the president “likes his company and thinks he’s fun.” Bolton has met with Trump several times and often agrees with the president’s instincts. Trump also thinks Bolton, who regularly praises the president on Fox News Channel, is good on television.
For now, the market is not taking the uncertainty well – Stocks and USDJPY are down, and gold is up on the headlines…
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As Breitbart reminds us, the final straw for McMaster allegedly came earlier this month as his relationship with the executive branch’s other two generals: Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Reports earlier this week suggested that McMaster’s relationship with the two men had soured over policy disputes.