Tag Archives: National Security Adviser

Flynn gets the leniency he would have denied others

The Robert Mueller Drama has taken an astonishing turn.

The special counsel today recommended that former national security adviser Michael Flynn receive zero prison time as payback for the “substantial” contribution he has made in Mueller’s investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system.

What we don’t know is what Mueller gained precisely from Flynn, the key Trump aide who quit after 24 days as national security adviser. He had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about what he knew about the campaigns contacts with the Russians.

Mueller, though, apparently has received a treasure trove of information from Flynn. Hence, the no-prison recommendation from the special counsel.

Think of the irony for a moment.

It was the same Michael Flynn who stood before the Republican National Convention in 2016 and led a chorus of chants to “Lock her up!” in reference to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s problems associated with her use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state.

Flynn had no problem yelling right along with the GOP faithful to throw Clinton behind bars. Due process? Who needs it? Not the Republican faithful or the retired Army lieutenant general who led their chants in Cleveland.

Flynn’s downfall after a distinguished career as an Army officer was shocking, but deserved. He did plead guilty to committing a felony, which was lying to the FBI about a criminal investigation.

I would give damn near anything to know what’s under the redaction marks in the sentencing memo that Mueller released today. For now I’ll settle for presuming that Mueller is still working on the details of what he has assembled for his final report.

Something tells me it’s likely to make the president squirm.

Bolton has lost his spine

I am going to concur with Paul Begala, a former Bill Clinton political confidant and pal, who says national security adviser John Bolton has shown himself to be a coward.

Yes, Begala is a partisan. For that matter, I suppose you can argue that I am, too. Sure, I lean in the same direction as Begala, but I’ve never worked for politicians.

Begala is angry that Bolton has chosen to avoid listening to the recording of slain U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi being slaughtered by his Saudi Arabian captors, who killed him in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Reporters asked Bolton why he hadn’t listen to it. He said: “Unless you speak Arabic, what are you going to get from it?”

Begala responded in an essay: A lot. You will, presumably, hear struggle. You will hear beating, according to a Turkish newspaper, citing Turkish security sources. You will hear torture. You will hear an innocent man’s final, desperate words: “Release my arm! What do you think you are doing?” You will hear one of the alleged conspirators, who allegedly put on Khashoggi’s clothes to act as a body double, comment that “it is spooky to wear the clothes of a man whom we killed 20 minutes ago.”

Bolton didn’t want to hear that. Nor did he want to ask an interpreter to translate it for him. He said he could “read a transcript” if he could find an Arabic speaker to listen to it.

Read the essay here

Bolton’s crass and callous response defies human decency, in my humble view.

He is the national security adviser, for crying out loud! He needs to hear the screams of a journalist based in Washington, D.C., a Saudi national and a champion of political dissent. He had the temerity to insist on reforms in the land of his birth . . . and this is the response reportedly from the crown prince who allegedly ordered the man’s murder.

The CIA has determined that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder. The president has blown that assessment off. So, too, I guess has John Bolton, choosing to join Donald Trump in the hideous game of disparaging the nation’s intelligence experts.

Cowardly.

‘Libya model’ in play … or not?

That didn’t take long.

Donald Trump brings John Bolton aboard just a few weeks ago to be national security adviser. Bolton, a noted hard-liner, then tell Fox News that the president will follow the “Libya model” in shaping U.S. policy with regard to North Korea’s nuclear program.

What does the president then do? In Bolton’s presence, he tells reporters he isn’t following the Libya model, that he’s going to craft a unique policy as it concerns efforts to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons.

“The Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all, when we’re thinking of North Korea (DPRK),” Trump told reporters at the White House before meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

You see, the Libya model didn’t work out well for the late Moammar Gadhafi, the strongman who used to run Libya.

Rebels revolted there, overthrew Gadhafi, then captured him and dragged off to some location — and then killed him! He’s dead, man!

Do you think North Korea’s strongman, Kim Jong Un, wants to hear some comparison to the Libya model? I, um, do not believe so.

Trump is trying to preserve some semblance of hope that he and Kim will actually meet next month in Singapore to discuss a whole range of issues. It’s a big deal, this meeting. U.S. presidents and North Korean dictators have never met face to face.

Trump’s rhetoric about Kim has transformed from threats to “Little Rocket Man” to high praise for him as someone interested in forging an actual peace treaty with South Korea.

Then his national security adviser, Bolton, steps in it by referring to an event that ended badly for another world leader.

Let’s get our nation’s message straight, shall we?

‘Mad Dog’ can’t work with Bolton? Who knew?

Imagine my non-surprise to hear this tidbit on a drizzly Texas Panhandle day. It is that Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis told associates he isn’t sure he can work with John Bolton were he to be named national security adviser to the Donald J. Trump administration.

Who knew? Yes?

You see, Mattis is a grownup. He’s a retired Marine Corps general with combat experience. He knows war. He’s seen it up close. He’s been to hell and lived to talk about it … were he so inclined.

Bolton is more of a “chicken hawk.” He doesn’t have the kind of real-world experience that Mattis has piled up. Yet he stands ready to recommend war at almost any turn. The Hill reports that White House chief of staff John Kelly, another retired Marine general, also is unhappy with Bolton’s selection as national security adviser.

Well, now the president has appointed Bolton to be the national security adviser. The decision appears to have isolated Mattis, who had a kindred spirit in the national security adviser’s chair for about a year. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is stepping down as national security adviser and reportedly is retiring from the Army.

He and Mattis double-teamed as a reasonable tandem of advisers who were willing to advise Trump against acting rashly — even though they weren’t always able to persuade the president to follow their advice.

Gen. McMaster is now gone. Is “Mad Dog” Mattis the next grownup to be shown the door?

Chaos is king in the Trump White House.

Get ready for Mattis vs. Bolton

Donald Trump’s national security team just cannot get its legs under it. It cannot function as a cohesive team that imparts advice to a president who is willing to (a) listen to it and (b) follow it.

With that we now have a new national security adviser, uber-super hawk John Bolton who quite likely will clash openly with Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

I’m going to pull for Mad Dog to win this fight, although Bolton now is the man of the hour, the guy who’s got the president’s ear.

Heaven help us if Bolton’s world view carries the day in the West Wing of the White House.

Bolton is known around the world as one with an itchy trigger finger. He favors pre-emptive military action against North Korea. Indeed, he has favored “putting boots on the ground” in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan … you name it, Bolton wants to flex U.S. military muscle.

He despises the nuclear arms deal worked out by the Obama administration that seeks to de-nuclearize Iran.

There’s Bolton’s profile in brief.

How about Mattis? He favors the Iran nuclear deal. He believes it is working and is worth retaining. And North Korea? Well, the retired Marine Corps general, a decorated combat veteran to boot, believes diplomacy should remain as Option No. 1 in our efforts to talk the reclusive Marxist regime out of striking at South Korea, or Japan — or the United States of America!

Mattis’s world view is forged by a career that has seen him serve up close in harm’s way. Bolton’s world view comes from a different perspective. He doesn’t have the kind of front-line military experience that Mattis does; Bolton served six years in the Maryland Army National Guard.

I want to bring this to your attention only to suggest that there might be yet another ideological storm brewing within the Trump White House.

As I have noted before, “Mad Dog” Mattis is one of the few grownups who have signed on to serve this president.

I do not believe John Bolton falls into that category of public servant.

Let’s see how this guy works out

Of all the things Donald J. Trump said while campaigning for the presidency in 2016, one of the few statements he made with which I agree dealt with the Iraq War.

He called it a “total disaster.” Which it turned out to be … on so many levels.

So, who does the president hire as his next national security adviser? John Bolton, an Iraq War advocate, a premier uber-hawk and a guy known for a fiery world view that seems to require that America embark on nation-building whenever it sees fit.

Trump shoved H.R. McMaster out the door this week after press secretary Sarah Hucakbee Sanders assured us that all is well between the president and the national security adviser.

It turns out it wasn’t. McMaster actually was one of the grownups within the Trump inner circle. He is a U.S. Army lieutenant general, a battle-tested scholar. He also disagreed with Trump on a number of key issues: Russia, the Iran nuclear deal come to mind.

Now the president has brought on board a guy who agrees with him on the Iran nuke deal. He’s extremely hawkish on North Korea, too, meaning that he just might counsel the president to go to war with Kim Jong Un if an opportunity presents itself.

Gosh, I feel decidedly less comfortable knowing that John Bolton is returning to the federal government.

Bolton did say that he knows his role, that the president sets policy. His new duties will be to provide advice and counsel on national security matters.

Throughout all of this chaos, though, is the pattern already established that Trump hardly takes a moment to listen to anyone. I am left to wonder: Is the president going to heed the reckless advice that John Bolton is capable of delivering?

Oh, my. I am gnashing my teeth.

Trump reverses growth quotient

Paul Begala is an acknowledged Democratic partisan. He once worked for President Bill Clinton. He is no fan of Donald Trump.

Now that we’ve established that, I have to concur with something he has said about the president.

Whereas presidents — particularly those who come to the White House with a primarily outside-the-Beltway experience — usually grow in the office, Donald Trump is shrinking the office to fit his own shortcomings.

Begala mentioned how Presidents Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama all learned about the office, how they filled the White House with their presence. Trump has reversed that momentum.

I will add that of the examples Begala cited, all of them had prior government experience. Reagan served two terms as governor of California, Bush served a term and a half as governor of Texas, Clinton served multiple terms as Arkansas governor and Obama served in the Illinois state senate before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Trump’s experience is totally unique. He never sought a public before running for president. He ran a large business. Trump answered to no one. He has demonstrated zero curiosity, zero humility, not a lick of introspection. He has said he’s never sought forgiveness. He won’t admit to making a mistake.

As some observers have noted, Trump’s political skill — which he exhibited while campaigning successfully for the presidency — hasn’t transferred to governing. He doesn’t know how to govern.

Donald Trump isn’t growing into the office he won. He is shrinking it to fit his own diminished profile.

Trump is shaking up the Cabinet. His closest advisers are bailing, or are being pushed out. His Health and Human Services secretary had to quit; his first national security adviser was canned; Trump has just fired the secretary of state; the veterans secretary is about to go; the current national security adviser may be canned; Trump has burned through four communications directors.

This all happened in the first 15 months of his presidency.

And the president would have us believe he is doing the best job in the history of the exalted office of the presidency?

Nope. Paul Begala is right. Donald Trump is shrinking the office.

Is the vise tightening around White House?

Robert Mueller has just landed another big fish in his search for the truth.

The special counsel appointed by the Justice Department to look into the “Russia thing” appears now to have reeled in a three-star witness to help learn a great deal about Donald John Trump’s relationship with the Russian government.

He is retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the one-time national security adviser to the president. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials. In exchange he has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s legal team as it pores through a growing pile of evidence.

Mueller already has secured an indictment of former campaign chief Paul Manafort and a chief deputy; former campaign aide George Papadopoulos has copped a guilty plea as well.

Now it’s Flynn’s turn to sing.

As the Washington Post reports: With the guilty plea Friday by former national security adviser Michael Flynn — one of Trump’s closest and most valued aides — the investigation has swept up an array of figures with intimate knowledge of the campaign, the transition and the White House.

It appears to have swiftly expanded beyond Russia’s interference in the campaign to encompass a range of activities, including contacts with Russian officials during the transition and alleged money laundering that took place long before Trump ran for office.

Where does Mueller go from here?

I, of course, am in no position to predict what will happen next, or beyond the next step. My gut — along with my trick knee — are telling me that Mueller’s investigation well might be getting close to pay dirt.

Here’s hoping the president has the good sense to let him stay on the hunt. I mean, Donald Trump keeps saying there’s nothing to any of it … right?

White House faces another moment of truth

As if the White House doesn’t have enough centers of conflict within its walls, now we hear about yet another feud erupting between two of the president’s closest advisers.

In one corner is Stephen Bannon, the uber nationalist and former head of Breitbart News and a guy known for his rather harsh views about “globalism.” In the other corner is Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the brilliant military strategist who now serves as Donald John Trump Sr.’s national security adviser.

The White House is getting caught up in a growing potential crisis in North Korea. The president needs close aides nearby to give him sound advice on how to handle this matter.

McMaster made the rounds today on news talk shows to talk about the Korea issue — and about his relationship with Bannon. McMaster declined to say he could work with Bannon. He soft-shoed his way all around the questions.

Indeed, this is another test for the White House, which now is being run day-to-day by another general-grade officer, former Marine Gen. John Kelly, the president’s newly named chief of staff. It now falls on Kelly to ensure that the White House functions like a “fine-tuned machine,” which is now Trump once described his dysfunctional administration.

My sincere hope is that McMaster emerges as the man who’s standing if he, indeed, is engaged in a battle with Bannon.

I don’t trust Bannon as far as I can throw my big home office desk. He lacks the background to serve as a “senior policy adviser” to the president of the United States. He is a far-right provocateur and a damn scary dude, to boot!

McMaster is a grownup with tremendous combat experience. He has emerged as a brilliant strategist and he is the kind of serious-minded adviser who — if he’s given the chance — can serve the president and the nation with distinction.

All of this, of course, relies on the president’s judgment.

Will he heed the voice in his head that tells him to trust the national security pro or does he rely instead on the right-wing flamethrower?

As hopeful as I want to be on how this turns out, I am not willing to bet the mortgage the president will do what is right for the nation.

Golden Rule, Mr. President?

One of the aspects of this latest feud that’s erupted between Donald J. Trump and the media involves its timing.

The president decided to go after MSBNC morning talk-show host Mika Brzezinski with a hideous tweet about her supposedly “bleeding from a face lift” while she and fiancé and fellow co-host Joe Scarborough sought to visit Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

The president is angry over “negative coverage” delivered by the MSNBC hosts. So he decided to make it personal.

Let’s consider a fairly underreported aspect of this spate uncivility. It comes just after the death of Brzezinski’s father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Carter from 1977 until 1981. The elder Brzezinski, who died on May 26,  was an avid anti-communist; he fled his native Poland, which would be taken over by the communist government that followed orders set down by the Soviet Union. Zbig, as he was known to his friends, became a naturalized American and then became one of the nation’s foremost experts on the Soviet Union. He was a great man who, quite obviously was revered by his family, including his daughter Mika.

Why couldn’t the president have honored Mika Brzezinski’s grief? Why did he feel compelled to launch that Twitter tirade while she is still hurting?

Oh, I almost forgot. That would require a sense of human decency, which the president seems to lack.

I am reminded of a New Testament passage. It’s in the Gospel of Matthew, referring to the Golden Rule. The New Living Translation instructs us as Jesus Christ taught: Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

How might the president have felt had someone attacked him so directly — and so personally — so soon after the death of a loved one?

I’m guessing he’d get real angry … real fast.