Tag Archives: National Security Council

Obama didn’t ‘allow’ annexation of Crimea

This won’t surprise regular readers of this blog, but I agree with former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice’s assertion that Donald Trump has taken an outrageous position with regard to Russia and its former membership in the Group of Eight nations.

Trump wants the now G-7 nations to bring Russia back into its fold. Susan Rice said the following, according to The Hill: Rice said Trump made “a disgraceful statement” when he said Obama “allowed Russia to take Crimea.”

“Rather than understand Russia is our adversary, Russia had taken on behavior that is absolutely reprehensible… for the president of the United States to suggest all that is forgotten, that we are together, that we are fine with one country annexing another country’s sovereign territory is outrageous,” Rice said.

Russia took another nation’s territory by force. It has done not a damn thing to rectify its aggression against Ukraine. It has continued to prop up a dictatorial regime in Syria. Oh, and it meddled in our 2016 election.

Rice is suggesting that Trump is divorced from any semblance of reality by asking for Russia’s re-inclusion into the G-7 nations comprising the world’s greatest economic powers.

The president’s desire to bring Russia back after the nations kicked it out after annexing Crimea has been met with almost unanimous scorn by the rest of the G-7; only Italy has backed the president’s request.

Moreover, Trump’s continual harping on actions taken by his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, seem to suggest some sort of sick fixation with the 44th president. He keeps singling him out specifically, making preposterous assertions that he “allowed” Russia to take Crimea. It begs the question: What would Donald Trump had done if he had been in the Oval Office, making the tough call? Does anyone actually believe he would have put “boots on the ground” to prevent a Russian takeover? Give me a break, man!

I have stayed away from asserting in this blog that Russia might have the goods on Trump, that it might be holding some deep, dark secrets about the president’s business dealings in Russia.

These continuing assertions from Trump that all is forgiven with regard to Russia are making me wonder about those reports about Russia and possible business connections with the Trump Organization.


Welcome to the new normal in Trump World

Let’s call it the “New Normal” in the world of Donald John Trump Sr.

The president of the United States announced via Twitter that he would meet with North Korean strongman/boy Kim Jong Un. He didn’t tell Secretary of State Rex Tillerson any of this in advance.

Then he fired Tillerson and brought in CIA Director Mike Pompeo to run the State Department.

And then … he places a congratulatory phone call to another despot, Russian goon Vladimir Putin, who stole an election — the one that re-elected him, poisoned a former spy and his daughter, meddled in our 2016 election. He placed that call against the vehement advice of his national security team. Trump didn’t bother to mention a word about the poisoning or Putin’s attack on our electoral system. He couldn’t be bothered with any of that small stuff.

Then the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, resigned — today! Trump then announced he was hiring John Bolton, the fiery former United Nations ambassador, the uber-hawk.

The president is set to meet with a prime U.S. adversary, North Korea, in the midst of a nuclear threat. The secretary of state is fired; the national security adviser has quit. Oh, and the State Department has virtually zero deputy or under secretaries to do the necessary spade work in preparation for what could be either a landmark summit … or a complete bust!

Trump’s take on all of this? Hey, it’s no problem! He’s forging at this moment the perfect team to surround him.

Oh, brother. The man has gone through four communications directors, he has hired his second White House chief of staff, he has just hired his third national security adviser. He forced out a press secretary. And all this has occurred with just 15 months of the man’s administration!

That’s normal? Not in any manner that makes sense.

In Trump World, though, it’s all part of the game plan that will “make America great again.”


Leak complicates an already complicated problem

Donald J. Trump’s congratulatory phone call to Vladimir Putin was bad enough. He shouldn’t have slapped the Russian president on the back for winning a “sham election,” as Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain has described it.

He should have taken Putin down for meddling in our 2016 election and for reports that Russian officials poisoned a former spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom. The president didn’t say a word about either of those things … reportedly!

Now, though, it gets seriously complicated.

Someone inside the West Wing, inside the president’s inner circle, likely leaked to the Washington Post that Trump congratulated Putin against the advice of his national security team.

Let’s roll this one around for a moment.

The president is rightfully furious that someone would leak this information to the media. I understand his anger. Please note that no one is denying the guts of what is being reported. The National Security Council implored Trump to avoid making a call in the first place, but if he were to do so to avoid offering any congratulations.

I don’t know which is worse: that Trump would ignore the advice of his national security team or that someone with access to this kind of highly sensitive information would be so emboldened to leak it to the public.

This poses a couple of key questions. 1. What kind of “extreme vetting” did the president and White House chief of staff John Kelly use to ensure these secrets would be protected? 2. And what in the world is Donald Trump thinking — if he is thinking at all — if he can defy the advice of some smart national security aides who understand how it looks for the president to continue to soft-pedal Russia’s attack on our electoral system?

Trump once boasted he knows more about international terrorists “than the generals, believe me.” Does this guy also know more about how to handle highly complicated bilateral relationships than the “best people” with whom he has surrounded himself — and who implored him to use extreme caution in talking to Vladimir Putin?

This guy, the president of the United States, is out of control.

National security must be above politics

I cannot help but wonder if it ever has occurred to Donald Trump that the presence of his top political strategist on the National Security Council might deter qualified individuals from seeking the national security adviser’s job.

OK, I know that the president isn’t prone to introspection at any level. But the longer he goes without a national security adviser, the more grave the risk for the United States in the event of an international crisis.

These things have a way of exploding with zero advance warning … you know?

Michael Flynn was dismissed from the post after 24 days on the job, setting some kind of dubious record for brevity. Vice Admiral Bob Harward — a Navy SEAL and a highly regarded military mind — was thought to be ready to become the new national security adviser. Then he backed out!

Now the job remains vacant. Trump’s “fine-tuned machine” of an administration does not have the individual who is closest to the president after the White House chief of staff.

And this brings me to another, related point. Steve Bannon is part of the principals committee on the National Security Council. Bannon has limited experience in national security. Sure, he was a junior officer in the Navy once. He earned his political spurs, though, while running the Breitbart.com website.

He’s a political hand. A hack. Experts in national security issues have bemoaned his presence on the NSC, suggesting that national security should be totally, completely and irrevocably removed from any political maneuvering.

The president needs unvarnished assessment of national security threats without the taint of what a response would mean politically.

Trump elevated Bannon to the NSC and demoted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence, two people who historically have served on the principals committee that meets regularly with the president to assess these national security issues in detail.

What the … fudge?

The president insists his administration is on track. It’s running smoothly, he says. Everything is in order. Everyone is on the same page.

Except that the one individual he needs to provide accurate and detailed analysis of threats to the nation is nowhere to be found. Hey, he’s got Steve Bannon — the hack and purported white supremacist sympathizer — on hand to give the president the advice he’s supposed to digest.

Trump also told us he knows “more than the generals about ISIS.” Well, actually he doesn’t know squat … in my humble view.

I believe I’ll pray each day that we can survive the chaos that has erupted in what was supposed to be a “seamless transition of power” from one president to the next one.

Did we abandon an ISIL captive?

My heart breaks for Diane Foley, whose son James was beheaded by Islamist terrorists.

Accordingly, I can understand her bitterness that the U.S. government perhaps could have done more to save her son’s life.



Is it fair, though, so soon after this terrible tragedy to suggest the government failed to do all it could do to secure the journalist’s release?

It’s been revealed that in July the U.S. sent a Special Forces team into Syria to rescue Foley. It failed. The team arrived at where it thought Foley was being held but discovered only an empty building.

Diane Foley now alleges that national security officials threatened her with prosecution if she continued to raise money to pay a ransom for her son. Indeed, U.S. law now prohibits the government from negotiating with terrorists. It’s unclear — to me at least — just how Ms. Foley intended to pay the money if she was able to raise the amount the terrorists demanded.

Secretary of State John Kerry — who’s in Turkey seeking to build an international coalition to fight ISIL — adamantly denies any personal knowledge of a prosecution threat. Kerry told reporters: “I can tell you that I am totally unaware and would not condone anybody that I know of within the State Department making such statements.”

Quite clearly nothing can bring James Foley back. As for U.S. law prohibiting negotiating with terrorists, it needs to stay on the books.

A mother’s grief is overwhelming. A nation still mourns her son’s gruesome death. But let’s not overlay that grief with an understanding of what the government did — or couldn’t do under the law — to secure her son’s freedom.

Let’s concentrate instead on finding the murderers and administering battlefield “justice,” which is what the president and secretary of state already have vowed to do.