The Knives Are Out For Lt Gen McMaster

news
U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl

Allies of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon intensified their battle against national security adviser H.R. McMaster this week as McMaster began asserting more control over the National Security Council and fired officials appointed by his immediate predecessor, Michael Flynn.


The dismissals of Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Rich Higgins, and Derek Harvey have exacerbated friction between McMaster and the White House's more nationalist wing, which is led by Bannon and has President Donald Trump's ear.

"There is a split in the White House between the Bannon camp of ideologues and the McMaster-Mattis-Tillerson camp of more centrist intellectuals," Pete Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who worked closely with McMaster, told Politico. "And this conflict is playing out in real time as the Trump administration tries to flesh out its foreign policy and national security policy."

Twitter accounts that have been linked to Russian influence operations have jumped on the anti-McMaster bandwagon, too, using hashtags like #FireMcMaster and #deepstate.

John Kelly's recent move from homeland security secretary to White House chief of staff should ensure McMaster's independence and control over the NSC — for now.

But the nationalists may have a competitive advantage: Trump, who already thinks McMaster is a "pain" who talks too much and has complained to aides that he wants Flynn back at the White House, is reportedly considering sending McMaster to replace Gen. John Nicholson as the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

"What the nationalists are saying about McMaster: 'He wants to send more troops to Afghanistan, so we're going to send him,'" Axios' Mike Allen reported Thursday.

Whether McMaster is ousted or not, efforts to undermine him both inside and outside the West Wing seem to be well underway.

McMaster has gone to bat for Trump in the past. He defended him to reporters after Trump disclosed Israeli intelligence to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office. And he said he "would not be concerned" if Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, had asked to set up a secret back-channel method of communication with Moscow during the transition period.

But right-wing media outlets like Breitbart have long harbored suspicions about McMaster, who persuaded Trump to stay away from the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" in a speech to Middle Eastern leaders in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

Michael Warren, a writer for The Weekly Standard, told CNN on Friday that Bannon and his allies saw McMaster's sudden purge of Flynn appointees as an overt attempt to sabotage Trump's agenda.

Laura Ingraham, a conservative political commentator and Trump ally, on Thursday tweeted, "Obama holdovers at NSC or State Dept who are leaking [should] do real time for these leaks," and questioned why McMaster had "fired actual Trump supporters."

Since the firings, administration officials speaking anonymously to conservative-leaning news outlets have accused McMaster of being "anti-Israel" and opposing "everything the president wants to do."

One former NSC official told The Daily Caller that McMaster was a "sycophant" of retired Gen. David Petraeus. The official seemed to try to appeal directly to the president's ego, adding that he didn't understand why Trump was "allowing a guy who is subverting his foreign policy at every turn to remain in place."

On Thursday, a letter McMaster wrote to Susan Rice, a national security adviser during the Obama administration, allowing her to keep her security clearance was leaked to Circa — an outlet seen as friendly to Trump. Circa paired the letter, which immediately stirred outrage in far-right circles, with quotes from anonymous West Wing officials claiming it undermined the president's judgment.

"What is this? Does H.R. McMaster need to go? Susan Rice? Omg," Sean Hannity, a Trump ally and Fox News host who dined with the president last week, tweeted on Thursday.

"H.R. McMaster is a Deep State Plant who Opposes the Trump Agenda," tweeted Mike Cernovich, a prominent far-right provocateur who describes himself as an "American nationalist."

Cernovich set up a website this week called McMaster Leaks, on which he alleged the general had "been leaking information to David Petraeus and has had direct contact with George Soros," a billionaire, left-leaning philanthropist and frequent bogeyman of the far right.

"America needs Rich Higgins in office, not HR McMaster," tweeted Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy, a far-right think tank. He added that if McMaster weren't "fired for sabotaging" Trump's agenda, "it will be the McMaster administration."

"Why is Gen McMaster making decisions without even informing Gen Kelly?" tweeted Jack Posobiec, a far-right internet activist and pro-Trump conspiracy theorist. "Is this proper chain of command?"

Twitter accounts that have been linked to Russian influence operations have jumped on the anti-McMaster bandwagon, too, using hashtags like #FireMcMaster and #deepstate, according to a newly launched website that aims to track Russian propaganda efforts in real time.

On Friday, the top and trending websites the accounts were sharing were the Circa story about McMaster letting Rice keep her security clearance. Shares of a Breitbart story titled "NSC Purge: McMaster 'Deeply Hostile to Israel and to Trump'" have increased by 2,300% since Wednesday, according to the site, and "clearance," "McMaster," and "Susan Rice" were among the top and trending topics.

More from Business Insider:

WATCH MORE:

Army Sgt. Jeremy Seals died on Oct. 31, 2018, following a protracted battle with stomach cancer. His widow, Cheryl Seals is mounting a lawsuit alleging that military care providers missed her husband's cancer. Task & Purpose photo illustration by Aaron Provost

The widow of a soldier whose stomach cancer was allegedly overlooked by Army doctors for four years is mounting a medical malpractice lawsuit against the military, but due to a decades-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine, her case will likely be dismissed before it ever goes to trial.

Read More Show Less
The first grenade core was accidentally discovered on Nov. 28, 2018, by Virginia Department of Historic Resources staff examining relics recovered from the Betsy, a British ship scuttled during the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. The grenade's iron jacket had dissolved, but its core of black powder remained potent. Within a month or so, more than two dozen were found. (Virginia Department of Historic Resources via The Virginian-Pilot)

In an uh-oh episode of historic proportions, hand grenades from the last major battle of the Revolutionary War recently and repeatedly scrambled bomb squads in Virginia's capital city.

Wait – they had hand grenades in the Revolutionary War? Indeed. Hollow iron balls, filled with black powder, outfitted with a fuse, then lit and thrown.

And more than two dozen have been sitting in cardboard boxes at the Department of Historic Resources, undetected for 30 years.

Read More Show Less
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton

At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.

Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.

They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.

What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.

Read More Show Less

A Coast Guard lieutenant arrested this week planned to "murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," according to a court filing requesting he be detained until his trial.

Read More Show Less
(Getty Images/Spencer Grant)

(Reuters Health) - Military service members who are at risk for suicide may be less likely to attempt to harm themselves when they receive supportive text messages, a U.S. study suggests.

Read More Show Less