Tag Archives: national security

C’mon, Mr. POTUS … let Bolton talk to Senate

Jumpin’ jiminy, Mr. President. Now we get word that you’re thinking about invoking “executive privilege” as a way to keep John Bolton from talking to the U.S. Senate during its impeachment trial.

How come? You keep yapping that the impeachment is a “sham,” a “hoax,” a “witch hunt,” a nothing burger. Then up steps your former national security adviser, who seemed to balk initially at talking to the Senate, now says he’ll answer a subpoena if the Senate issues it.

He wants to talk out loud. He wants tell us what he knows about that so-called “perfect phone” conservation you said you had with the Ukrainian president. Yeah, I know Bolton called it a “drug deal,” and reportedly didn’t like the request you made of the Ukrainians to deliver on a “political favor, though.”

However, Bolton was thought to be your guy, Mr. President. You brought him in to give you some national security cred. Then you fired him, or he quit … whatever. And for what purpose? Because you and he weren’t on the same page. Hey, I get that the national security adviser works at the pleasure of the president, that he or she is not a Senate-confirmed individual, that you can hire and fire whoever you want for whatever reason you deem appropriate.

Does any of that mean Bolton is going to knife you in the back? Maybe. Maybe not.

Back to my point, Mr. President. You continually tell us that you’re in the clear. You’ve done nothing wrong. You haven’t abused the power of your office or obstructed Congress. Democrats in the House and Senate are conducting a fishing expedition … you say.

If all that is true, then what gives with the “executive privilege” nonsense? That’s what I believe it is, Mr. President. Nonsense! It’s a diversionary tactic that looks to me like the action of a man with something to hide from the public.

That man, sir, is you.

Where’s the ‘intelligence’ at the briefing?

When a leading Republican supporter of Donald J. Trump comes out of an intelligence briefing and calls it the “worst” one he’s heard in his time as a U.S. senator, then it looks as though the president has some trouble on his hands.

Mike Lee of Utah came out of the briefing today to blast the briefers. He called the event “sophomoric,” and was highly critical of the national security team’s instruction to avoid any debate about what they learned behind closed doors.

Lee didn’t like what he heard. What’s more, he said so out loud.

The briefing came from some Trump administration heavyweights, including CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper; a third briefer was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who I should add has emerged as a high-profile disappointment as the nation’s top diplomat.

At issue was the justification for killing Iranian Revolutionary Guard chieftain Qassem Solemaini. The president said Iran was planning an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests and that the air strike in Baghdad was meant as a “defensive” measure. He didn’t provide any evidence of such an “imminent” attack. Senators came out of today’s briefing saying the national security team didn’t provide anything new, either.

Iran responded with the missile attack against two U.S. bases in Iraq. The missiles didn’t inflict any casualties. Iran backed down. Trump said the United States would not pursue any further military action. “All is well,” the president said via Twitter. Well, it isn’t all well.

What is stunning to me was the anger expressed by Sen. Lee, who until now has stood foursquare behind the president. He said the briefers’ admonition was “insulting.”

This is the troubling aspect of the hit against Solemaini. The strike itself needed to happen. What also needed to occur was the development of a cogent after-action strategy by the Trump administration.

It appears that there is nothing of the sort available for public review.

Day One proved more eventful than some of us expected

The first day of public hearings into the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry could have turned into a snoozer.

It didn’t. Far from it. The daylong testimony was riveting on a couple of levels.

On one level we got to hear from the mouths directly of two career public servants about the things they said in private to the House Intelligence Committee. Their public testimony was as damaging as what we were led to believe their private testimony had been.

William Taylor is the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; George West is a deputy secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. They were strong. They were forthright. I believe they told the truth.

They told us that Trump sought political favors from a foreign government. They said the president was more interested in digging up dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, than in rooting out corruption in Ukraine.

I believe they helped shore up the belief among many Americans that Trump has committed at least one impeachable offense. There might even be a bribery count thrown into the impeachment mix once the House of Representatives votes on the issue.

With several more days of hearings to go, the other aspect of this spectacle deals with how the Republicans on the committee and elsewhere in Congress are going to respond.

I will acknowledge my bias, but to my eyes and ears, the GOP didn’t fare as well as their Democratic colleagues. They struck out hard against Democratic motives and challenged what the witnesses saw and heard. Stunningly, they didn’t say a single word — that I heard — in defense of Donald Trump’s character. Which makes me wonder: How are they going to defend Trump against this impeachment tide?

They won’t defend their political main man. They will continue to attack, which will seek to divert our attention from the issue at hand: whether the president broke the law while violating his oath of office.

There will be more to come. This serious matter is likely to demonstrate — no matter how this drama concludes — that our Constitution does work.

Waiting on former national security adviser’s testimony

It was reported when John Bolton left the national security adviser’s post that the fiery foreign policy guru is no shrinking violet, that he wouldn’t sit quietly by while Donald Trump trashed him.

Trump said he fired Bolton, who then said he resigned. Trump said his decision to let Bolton go was over differences in how to handle Middle East policy.

OK, but now Bolton has become a key player in this impeachment inquiry. You see, we don’t know what Bolton might have heard when Trump was dealing with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy and whether he sought foreign government help for personal political purposes.

It is now assured that Bolton will speak to congressional committees about what he knows and what he saw and heard while serving in the White House. I am one American — who, by the way, doesn’t think much of Bolton’s world view — who is awaiting what he has to say.

My hunch is that he won’t shy away one bit from providing whatever information he has about the president. House committee members already have gotten an earful from other former Trump administration officials, notably from one-time Ukraine envoy William Taylor, who reportedly has said that Trump did withhold military assistance to Ukraine in exchange for a political favor.

Will the former national security adviser’s deposition support that assertion? Will he add more grist for the impeachment mill? John Bolton doesn’t strike me as a shrinking violet. He is a tough guy clothed in a business suit.

If I were a betting man, I would wager that those close to Donald Trump are seriously worried about what John Bolton is going to say about how the president has violated his oath of office.

Oops, those troops aren’t exactly ‘coming home’

Donald Trump declared his intention to bring our troops “home” from Syria. He made a surprise announcement this past week that he would pull about 1,000 U.S. military personnel off the bloodstained battlefield.

He didn’t want our men and women to fight in “endless wars.”

OK, so the president followed through … with part of his plan.

The troops have left Syria, except that fewer than half of them are going “home.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that about 700 troops are headed for Iraq.

I’ve commented already about the idiotic decision to abandon our Kurdish allies in the fight against the Islamic State. What is troubling now is that the president’s decision to leave one battlefield is apparently going to put our troops onto another field of battle, where soldiers are still dying.

I concur with Trump’s view that we shouldn’t be fighting in “endless wars” with no conclusion anywhere to be seen. There should be careful consideration, though, on how you do it. Such a plan needs to be crafted with intense consultation with national security, intelligence, military and diplomatic advisers. It doesn’t appear that the president did any of his seemingly mandatory due diligence prior to making this decision.

What’s more, he is sending troops to Iraq?

What the … ?

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.