Tag Archives: National Security Adviser

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.

Ricks on McMaster: Quit and save your reputation

Thomas E. Ricks has written one of the more astonishing political columns I’ve seen in a good while.

The Pulitzer Prize winner, writing in Politico, says that national security adviser H.R. McMaster should resign his post to salvage his stellar reputation as a military thinker and strategist.
McMaster is on active duty in the U.S. Army. He’s a lieutenant general known for his intellect, integrity and courage. He wrote a book, “Dereliction of Duty,” that provides a scathing critique of how the chain of command prosecuted the Vietnam War.

Here is a snippet from Ricks’ essay in Politico: “McMaster probably thinks that by staying at his post, rather than resigning in disgust, he is doing his duty. Specifically, he may think that if stepped down, he might well be succeeded by an alt-right ally of White House adviser Steve Bannon. As I said, I used to believe that too.

“But I have watched and waited, and I don’t see McMaster improving Trump. Rather, what I have seen so far is Trump degrading McMaster. In fact, nothing seems to change Trump. He continues to stumble through his foreign policy—embracing autocrats, alienating allies and embarrassing Americans who understand that NATO has helped keep peace in Europe for more than 65 years.”

Ricks’ concern about an Army officer he has known for 20 years is that he now works for someone who knows nothing about government and seems to have no interest in learning the ins and outs of governing the greatest nation on Earth.

Yet the general has to provide political cover for a president who, in Ricks’ view, doesn’t deserve to hold the office he now occupies.


As Ricks writes: “The saving grace of Donald Trump as president is his incompetence. He knows almost nothing of how the federal government works. He seems to have been repeatedly surprised by the checks and balances written into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers. And he seems uninterested in learning.”

Ricks’ essay is a beaut. I am quite sure that Gen. McMaster has read it. Whether he takes it to heart — and acts on it — of course only he can answer.

It keeps getting deeper and darker for POTUS

The hits just keep on piling up on Donald John Trump.

The latest batch of them involves more media reporting that the president asked intelligence officials to push back on the FBI investigation into that “Russia thing.” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers said, um, “No can do.”

The FBI is looking into allegations that the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russians who were hacking into our electoral system, seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome — in Trump’s favor!

Trump keeps denying any collusion. Yet these reports keep piling up suggesting something quite different.

The Washington Post has reported this latest live grenade to blow up in the president’s face as he travels through the Middle East and Europe on his first overseas venture as leader of the free world.

A special counsel, Robert Mueller, already is on the job. Senate and House intelligence committees are at work as well in the hunt for the truth.

And, yes, so are the media — the scorned “enemy of the American people” and purveyors of “fake news.”

I am not going to predict with — as the late PBS talking head John McLaughlin would say — any “metaphysical certitude” that the president is heading straight for impeachment. But certain elements of the progression of events keep suggesting something such as that might occur.

Michael Flynn is going to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination as the FBI looks into the former national security adviser’s Russia involvement; former FBI director James Comey is going to talk publicly with congressional committees about memos he wrote chronicling some alleged attempts by Trump to obstruct justice; and Mueller is going to talk to a current senior White House aide who has been deemed a “person of interest” in this ongoing investigation.

Just think: Donald Trump’s time in the only political office he ever sought is just beginning.

Invoking the Fifth usually doesn’t imply innocence

What in the world are we to make of this bit of news, that former national security adviser Michael Flynn will reject a U.S. Senate committee subpoena and invoke his Fifth Amendment rights protecting him against self-incrimination?

Let me think. My takeaway is that Gen. Flynn doesn’t want the world to know certain things about, um, certain foreign governments.

Flynn’s role in the still-burgeoning controversy surrounding Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and its potential relationship with the Russian government has taken another, apparently far more serious, turn.


The Associated Press is reporting that Flynn won’t appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee and that he’ll clam up under his constitutional protection.

If someone were to ask me, I’d say that he doesn’t want to say something that’s going to get him tossed into prison. What might that be?

Hmm. It might be that he did do something potentially illegal when he went to work for Turkey’s government, drawing a substantial stipend for the Turks as a lobbyist while also serving as the president’s national security adviser.

Gen. Flynn, who also served on Trump’s transition team, also might have said something to say about Russian officials who had worked to undermine the 2016 presidential election. There well might be some collusion between the Trump team and the Russians to be revealed … yes? Well, maybe.

Flynn also reportedly sought immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony after the president fired him as national security adviser.

I’m smelling something terribly foul. Do you smell it, too?

Yates testimony deepens Flynn-Russia mystery

No one in Washington, D.C., likely thought Sally Yates was going to clear things up when she testified today about a former national security adviser and his relationship with the Russian government.

Oh, no. The former acting U.S. attorney general deepened the questions, heightened the intrigue and quite possibly opened some more doors of inquiry into this ongoing mess within the Trump administration.

At issue is former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general who last 24 whole days as Donald Trump’s right-hand man on national security issues. The president booted him after Flynn lied to Vice President Pence about conversations he had with Russian government officials.

Yates’ testimony, though, did reveal an interesting lapse of time: It took 18 days for the president to fire Flynn after learning about the general’s deception. Why did it take so long to let him go?

Flynn’s seat gets even hotter

Yates also told U.S. senators that Flynn’s conversations with the Russians — and his lying to the vice president — likely exposed him to blackmail. She said that’s a dangerous set of circumstances surrounding someone upon whom the president must rely for national security advice.

Oh, the web of intrigue continues to grow.

Yates stayed on after Donald Trump took office; she had been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve in the Justice Department, but then the new president asked her to stay on during his initial days in office. Then he fired her.

The Hill reports: “Reporting based on leaks of U.S. surveillance revealed in February that Flynn misled Vice President Pence about the contents of a December phone call to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — an account Pence was then repeating to the American people.”

There’s also this from The Hill: “‘We weren’t the only ones that knew all of this,’ Yates said Monday, referring to the revelation that Flynn misled Pence about the true content of the phone call with Kislyak. ‘The Russians also knew about what Gen. Flynn had done. The Russians also knew that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others.

“’This was a problem because not only do we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information — and that created a compromise situation, where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians,’ she said.”

Do you think this Russia-Trump story is going away any time soon? Neither do I.

The FBI is examining this relationship. And of course there’s the question about collusion and whether the Trump campaign actually cooperated with Russian hackers who sought to influence the 2016 presidential election.

I believe I’m going to stay tuned to this drama as it plays out.

Flynn story getting really curious … and scary

The hits keep coming as they regard a former national security adviser.

The ex-adviser is Michael Flynn, who lasted 24 whole days as Donald J. Trump’s right-hand man on national security issues. The president essentially fired him for lying to the vice president over his potential role in talks with Russian government officials.

Now comes this: We are hearing that the retired Army lieutenant general might have broken the law by failing to disclose that a foreign government paid him lots of money while he was working as an agent for a presidential candidate.

The Pentagon’s inspector general has launched an investigation into whether Flynn broke the law. The FBI already is examining whether the Trump campaign and the administration conducted improper — and possibly illegal — talks with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign.

It gets even dicier for Flynn and for the president. There are now suspicions that Flynn was taking money from Turkish government operatives while he was sitting in the Situation Room and functioning as the president’s national security adviser.

Does that mean that the president of the United States hired a foreign agent to serve as his go-to guy on national security?

Well, of course White House press secretary Sean Spicer sought a scapegoat for this mess. The real culprit is Barack H. Obama, whose administration granted Flynn his top secret clearance before the Trump administration took over, Spicer said.

Blame Obama: that’s the ticket

It’s often said that the cover-up usually is worse than the original offense. There seems to be some covering up going on.

Flynn faces possible prison time if he’s convicted of a crime relating to a failure to report the income he received. We’re hearing reports as well that the Pentagon allegedly warned Gen. Flynn about taking money from any foreign government and of the need to seek permission before accepting it. Flynn reportedly didn’t bother to check with the higher-ups before taking the money.

I am shaking my head. I am befuddled and baffled by the utter chaos that keeps unfolding within the Trump administration.

The president boasted about his team running like a “fine-tuned machine.” It keeps plowing into the proverbial ditch.

Now there might be something seriously frightening about the possibility that our national security adviser was wearing two hats, with the other one being that of a foreign agent.

Oh … my.

McMaster earns his, um, stripes as security adviser

H.R. McMaster wears three stars on his epaulets as a U.S. Army lieutenant general.

But he has earned some additional stripes as Donald Trump’s national security adviser in the wake of the Tomahawk missile strike ordered against Syrian military targets.

That’s the word from those who know these things.

I have to concur that after an initial major misstep in selecting another Army three-star — Michael Flynn — as national security adviser, the president has aligned himself with a serious pro in H.R. McMaster.

McMaster shows his clout

Gen. McMaster reportedly conducted serious meetings with senior National Security Council staff and lined up all the players on what should occur with regard to the strike.

I get that the results of the strike are being debate in its aftermath. It was seen as a “pin prick” against the Syrian military force. Its aim was to disable the base from which Syrians launched that terrible chemical weapon attack against civilians; the strike apparently didn’t do the job.

Still, one has to think the president chose well by securing McMaster as the man who provides critical national security advice to the commander in chief.

McMaster must face a daunting challenge, though, as he provides the president the advice he needs. He must be able to persuade the Big Man to think strategically, to ponder the consequences of his actions and to develop a thorough and comprehensive long-term plan to assert U.S. power when it’s deemed necessary.

Have at it, Gen. McMaster.

Mr. Innuendo is at it again

Donald Trump, who is unafraid to toss out any innuendo imaginable, is at it again.

This time, the president says former national security adviser Susan Rice “may have” committed a crime.

His evidence? His substantiation? Oh, what the hell. He doesn’t have anything to offer. He just said it.

Rice’s so-called “crime” apparently occurred when he allegedly sought the identities of Trump campaign officials who were mentioned as possible targets of U.S. surveillance.

She served as national security adviser for President Obama. Rice has denied any involvement in this matter and has said she did not break any law.

The hits just keep coming

That won’t stop Trump, who continues to exhibit recklessness as it regards others’ reputation. All he had to say when the subject came up would have been, “I won’t comment any further on that matter until we get to the bottom of what happened. But, no-o-o-o. He had to pop off yet again.

However, he did say: “I think it’s going to be the biggest story.  It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”

Kind of like the wiretapping ordered by Barack Obama, yes?