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Trump wants 'substantial' downsize of the National Security Council after whistleblower complaint
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has ordered a substantial reduction in the staff of the National Security Council, according to five people familiar with the plans, as the White House confronts an impeachment inquiry touched off by a whistleblower complaint related to the agency's work.
Some of the people described the staff cuts as part of a White House effort to make its foreign policy arm leaner under new national security adviser Robert O'Brien.
The request to limit the size of the NSC staff was conveyed to senior agency officials by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and O'Brien this week. The whistleblower complaint, focused on Trump's conduct in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has been followed by damaging reports on the president's private conversations with other world leaders.
The New York Times has reported that the whistleblower was a CIA officer who was at one point detailed to the White House. The complaint has become the driving motivation behind House Democrats' impeachment effort, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began last week.
Two of the people familiar with the decision to shrink the NSC insisted it was largely rooted in both the transition to O'Brien's leadership as well as Trump's desire to increase efficiency at the agency, which grew under former President Barack Obama. About 310 people currently work at the NSC.
All of the people asked not to be identified because the plan to reduce the NSC's size hasn't been made public.
Late Friday, Trump retweeted an allegation that the whistleblower was a CIA official who had been assigned to the NSC under Obama. Bloomberg News has not verified that assertion.
The reductions will primarily be carried out through attrition, as staffers return from assignments at the NSC to their home agencies, the people said. Many people who work at the council are career government professionals detailed from the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies.
Members of Congress have periodically sought to reduce the size of the NSC in recent years. Some lawmakers have threatened to make the national security adviser a Senate-confirmed position if the administration didn't reduce the number of people working at the president's foreign policy shop.
Created under President Harry Truman in 1947, the NSC is an interagency panel designed to provide the president with subject-matter experts who can offer advice on foreign policy.
O'Brien took over the NSC last month after his predecessor, John Bolton, departed the administration after high-profile disputes with Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo over Afghanistan, North Korea and other matters. There was also frustration among some West Wing officials about perceptions the NSC was leaking information to benefit Bolton.
Earlier this week, O'Brien appointed Alex Gray, formerly the National Security Council's Oceania and Indo-Pacific security director, to be a senior adviser, according to three people familiar with the plan.
Gray's appointment follows that of Matt Pottinger, who is now deputy national security adviser after serving previously as the NSC's senior director for Asia.
Pottinger, a former journalist and Marine who joined Trump's National Security Council in 2017 and later became senior director for Asia, has been deeply involved in U.S. talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and helped to plan Trump's meetings with the country's leader, Kim Jong Un.
©2019 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.
Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.