Tag Archives: national security

Yep, Bolton quit … period

Former national security adviser John Bolton wrote it out plainly and simply to Donald J. Trump.

“I hereby resign, effective immediately, as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Thank you for having afforded me this opportunity to serve our country.”

The letter is dated Sept. 10. That would be, um, Tuesday … of this week.

The president said he sought Bolton’s resignation. Bolton said he gave it on his own.

Who’s telling the truth? Well, you know how I feel about Trump. I don’t believe anything he says. Not at any level. On any subject. Nothing, man! Zero.

Therefore, I am inclined to believe Bolton.

Let me be clear: I do not want John Bolton advising any president on national security matters. He’s a warmonger. He’d rather hurl bombs at our enemies than seek diplomatic solutions.

Trump said he has disagreed with the advice Bolton gave him. At some level, I wish I could believe the president. Then again, I’ve already stated once again that I believe nothing from this man.

Oh, the quandary.

The bigger question facing the nation is seeking to find someone who can work with the president. Who in the world who is worth a damn would stomach working for someone who is so prone to disagreeing with advice he gets from supposed experts on matters such as, say … national security?

Trump has said he’s an expert on every subject known to humanity. That must include ways to protect this nation against its enemies.

Heaven help us.

Another ‘acting’ Cabinet official set to take over

Donald Trump has set an unofficial record for overseeing an executive branch of government with the most “acting” Cabinet secretaries and senior administrative aides.

It means that the “fine-tuned machine” Trump has boasted about only is acting like one. It also means that these critical federal agencies have no continuity, no solid command structure, no rock-solid leadership.

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is the latest Cabinet secretary to quit. He did so under duress, of course, given his role in the shamefully light sentencing of a pedophile who’s now accused of sex trafficking.

Three of 15 Cabinet posts are now filled by acting secretaries/administrators. Four of eight Cabinet-level posts are being run by acting heads.

Most disturbing are these items: The Defense Department, the White House chief of staff, the United Nations ambassador and the Department of Homeland Security all are being filled by acting leaders.

This makes me shudder on a couple of levels. One of them involves the lack of leadership I’ve mentioned already. Another of them means that these individuals are operating without the requisite confirmation by the U.S. Senate. There’s also noise about Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats being the next presidential target for dismissal.

As for the chief of staff post, that one doesn’t require Senate approval, but the acting COS, Mick Mulvaney, still lacks the authority he ought to command as the individual charged with ensuring the White House runs with maximum efficiency.

This all is a direct reflection of the president, the master of chaos and confusion. What’s more, key posts charged with national security missions — Homeland Security, Defense, the U.N. — have no clear, rock-solid leadership in place to call the shots.

We are left, therefore, to rely on the president of the United States to run these departments. Don’t you feel safer now?

Security clearance plot thickens

So now the plot continues to thicken inside the White House.

A longtime White House staffer who works on issuing security clearances for key administration personnel has told congressional investigators that the Trump administration has issued top-secret clearances to individuals who had been denied them for a variety of reasons.

Tricia Newbold has worked under four administrations, Democrat and Republican, dating back to 2000. She said the Trump White House has been amazingly lax in its security-clearance procedures. Imagine that, will ya? Who knew?

As the New York Times has reported:

Described as both “no nonsense” and “intense” by people who have interacted with her during the clearance process, Ms. Newbold has served under four presidential administrations, beginning with the Clinton White House in 2000. Eventually she worked her way up to adjudications manager, a job that required her to help make determinations about the security clearances of administration employees. Her office is filled with holdovers from other administrations, and it is meant to be nonpartisan.

Yet in the Trump administration the office was filled with people who had little experience in vetting employees in the interest of national security, Ms. Newbold said in a nine-hour deposition with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week.

I keep thinking of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, garnering clearances even though neither of them had a lick of national security experience prior to Daddy Trump becoming president of the United States.

The president denied running interference for either of them. Others have reported, though, that he most certainly did.

Again, from the NY Times:

John F. Kelly, the president’s former chief of staff, wrote in a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kusher the top-secret clearance. In her interviews with the House committee, Ms. Newbold said that Mr. Kelly and Joe Hagin, the former deputy chief of staff, had been attentive to the national security issues she had tried to raise.

Gosh, do you think there might be a national security risk being presented inside the White House’s West Wing?

I do. It frightens me.

Trump revives concept of ‘enemies list’

The sometimes-sinister spirit of Richard M. Nixon apparently has returned from the dead to whisper in the ear of Donald J. Trump.

The current president mirrored the former president’s enemies list by revoking the top security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. In a remarkable fit of petulance, pique and piggishness, the president did this to punish Brennan for what he called “erratic behavior.”

Did the former CIA boss reveal any national security secrets? Did he blab classified information to enemy states? Did he in any way compromise our ability to defend ourselves against foreign foes?

No to all of the above.

Brennan’s “sin” is to criticize the president.

What is wrong with that? Oh, nothing at all. It’s protected speech, according to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But you see, Donald Trump just won’t have any of that. He just cannot stomach the idea of a former CIA director, a man with immense national security chops — who could be of invaluable assistance to the president’s national security team — speaking negatively about administration policy.

The New York Times reported: In a tweet this week, Mr. Brennan criticized Mr. Trump for the language that the president used to attack Omarosa Manigault Newman, his former top aide, who he called a “dog.”

Mr. Brennan wrote, “It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation.”

Years ago, President Nixon developed an enemies list comprising members of the Democratic Party, radical left-wing protest groups, certain members of the media and, frankly, damn near any prominent American who spoke ill of him in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Nearly five decades later, his most recent presidential descendant has resurrected that notion by revoking the security clearance of a dedicated public servant and a man with tremendous knowledge of all things relating to protecting this great nation.

Shameful.

Two events: contrasting styles, confusing messages

The juxtaposition of two events the other day — just hours apart — speaks volumes about the incoherence of the Donald Trump administration and its outlook on national security threats.

Five members of the president’s national security and intelligence team stood before the nation and delivered a stern, but unified message. The Russians attacked our electoral system in 2016 and are doing so as we speak. These men and one woman were serious in their tone. They were measured. They all spoke with concern in their voices and delivered an urgent message: Our national security is at risk as is our electoral democratic process.

Then came the hysterical rants of the commander in chief. Six hours after the White House press briefing, Donald Trump stood before a campaign rally and bellowed “hoax!” in describing the Russia attack. He launched into an idiotic tirade against Democrats, against the “fake, fake, disgusting media,” and damn near every other perceived foe out there on the horizon.

The contrast in style and in message couldn’t be more profound.

Or more frightening.

Trump is the man in charge. The individuals who are charged with protecting our national security answer report to a goofball! It’s as clear as that.

Trump continues to deny the obvious attack on our electoral process. He continues to equivocate and make excuses. He doesn’t understand what his national security adviser, the homeland security secretary, the director of national intelligence, the FBI director and the National Security Agency director all know with absolute clarity.

The Russians have attacked us. They are continuing to do so.

The president is giving the Russians “aid and comfort” by undermining the concerns expressed by our national security team.

Disgraceful.

Trump’s thin skin results in petty punishment

Y’all remember the First Amendment. Among the liberties it guarantees is the right to protest federal government policies.

Several individuals who once held high-profile, sensitive positions in our national security network have been critical of the current president of the United States.

So, what does Donald J. Trump do? He decides he might revoke their high-level security clearances. First Amendment? Who needs it?

The individuals I refer to are: former CIA directors John Brennan and Michael Hayden; former director of national intelligence James Clapper (pictured); former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe; former national security adviser and U.N. ambassador Susan Rice; and former FBI director James Comey.

They all have spoken critically of the president. Trump’s reaction is a study in narcissistic petulance.

It’s also a symptom of someone who appears to relish the role of authoritarian. A president of the United States ought to know what the First Amendment allows and what it protects. He ought to understand that even those who once held top-tier national security posts were entitled to speak their minds if they see fit.

Bear in mind also that no one of the people mentioned in this punitive proposal has said a single thing in public that jeopardizes our national security. They all have been given this clearance — as did their predecessors — as a way to strengthen our national security, giving the current national security team a resource it can use for advice and counsel. The president, thus, seeks to weaken our national security system.

They only element these individuals have put in jeopardy has been the president’s standing among Americans who do not comprise his die-hard base. Donald Trump will have none of that.

Trump channels Nixon with enemies list

Donald Trump has reminded us that one of Richard Nixon’s lasting legacies is alive and so dangerously well in the White House.

Get a load of this: The president is seeking to yank the top-secret security clearances of several former top intelligence officials. They are former CIA Directors John Brennan and Michael Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey.

What do these men have in common? They’re all critical of the president. Have they released classified information in their criticism of Donald Trump? No.

Yet the president has concocted a phony pretext for stripping these men of their clearances.

Just as President Nixon formulated his infamous enemies list to target his critics, it appears Donald Trump is following suit.

It’s been a long-standing tradition for these individuals — all of whom provided valuable national security service to the nation — to maintain their clearances. The aim was to provide an extra level of security to the defense of the nation.

All these men have done in recent months is exercise their First Amendment rights of political expression. They have spoken their minds but have not given up a scintilla of information that should be guarded with utmost secrecy.

This is tantamount to a presidential enemies list — 2.0. Who’s next? DNI Dan Coats? FBI Director Christopher Wray?

Donald Trump well might be exhibiting symptoms of going bonkers.

Richard Nixon would be proud of this presidential successor.

Two years later, Trump still making no sense on trade

I posted a blog item nearly two years ago wondering if Donald Trump knew a damn thing about trade policy.

My conclusion, based on what I understood from a speech he gave in Bangor, Maine, was that he was clueless.

I must maintain that conclusion today.

Incoherence on trade policy …

Now that he is president of the United States, Trump has decided to impose steep and punishing tariffs on imported goods from two of our nation’s most vital trading partners: Canada and Mexico.

The Republican president has trashed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which includes the United States and, yes, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA was intended to forgo the kind of protectionist tariffs that governments impose on other nations.

The concept of “free trade” is to allow goods and commodities to flow among participating countries. To that end, I long have believed NAFTA was doing as it was intended.

Yet the president took office after promising to re-do NAFTA. I don’t know the basis of his disagreement with the agreement, except that he says the United States is wallowing in some sort of deepening “trade deficit” with our primary trading partners.

Now he’s calling Canada — Canada, I tell ya! — a threat to our “national security.” Does this guy, the president, know anything — about anything?

Two years ago, in Maine, Trump told us he favored free trade; then in the same speech, he said he opposed it.

His nonsensical approach to trade has not abated one bit now that he has taken an oath to serve as the head of state of our great nation.

This is what we acquired when Donald Trump got elected?

Holy cow, man!

Trump showing ’em R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Donald Trump’s feel-good campaign has hit a few walls along the way.

He’s gone to Quebec to take part in the G-7 summit of the world’s leading economic powers and has managed to tick off all of our allies. These are the real friends with whom this country formerly enjoyed a long-standing relationship through thick and thin, good times and bad, war and peace.

Yep, he’s now imposing steep trade tariffs, which might precipitate a trade war with, say, Canada and the European Union. China is there, too. Our relationship with the People’s Republic of China has been up and down since the communists took control in 1949, but at the moment it’s supposed to be in good shape — except that we might launch a trade war with them, too.

And, yes, we once fought a war with Japan and Germany. But since that terrible time, they have stood shoulder to shoulder with us.

He has said he might tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, even though Mexico — the third nation involved with NAFTA — isn’t represented at the G-7.

In the midst of all this, Trump is trying to make nice with Russia, as if he hasn’t made his preferences known already about Vladimir Putin’s government already around the world.

He wants Russia to come back into the circle of nations that used to be known as the G-8. That was until the organization booted the Russians out because they invaded Crimea and backed pro-Moscow forces rebelling against the government in Ukraine.

And while Trump excoriates Canada for posing a “national security threat” to the United States because of trade practices, he ignores the real threat that Russia has demonstrated by interfering in our 2016 election. Moreover, the Russians likely are going to do it again in 2018.

This is how you earn “respect” around the world, Mr. President?

No. It isn’t. It’s how you make a mockery of the role you assumed when you took the oath of office as president of the United States.

They aren’t respecting us in these world capitals. So help me, they are mocking us.

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.