Tag Archives: NSC

Firing Comey a big mistake? Yeah … do ya think?

I didn’t expect to agree with Stephen K. Bannon on anything.

But you know what? The former chief strategist for Donald John Trump Sr. said something on “60 Minutes” that makes me rethink that notion.

He said the president’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey is the “biggest political mistake in recent political history.”

I believe Bannon is on to something.

Trump canned Comey because of the “Russia thing.” He said initially the Russia probe wasn’t a factor; Vice President Mike Pence said the same thing. Then the president blabbed to NBC News anchor Lester Holt that, yep, Russia was the reason.

Then came Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was hired by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to become special counsel. Mueller is off and running; he has hired a crack team of legal eagles; the “Russia thing” is getting pretty damn serious.

Mueller is examining whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russian computer hackers who sought to meddle in our electoral process in 2016. He is going full bore, as he should. Had the president not fired Comey, Bannon said, there would be no Mueller, no special counsel, no need for concern among Trumpkins that Mueller has smelled blood in the political water.

Bannon is a tremendously objectionable character. He is back where he came from, as editor in chief of Breitbart News. Bannon had no business in the West Wing. His political experience is just a shade greater than Donald Trump, who had none before he entered the 2016 presidential campaign. Bannon is a right-wing provocateur and political hack who once sat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council. Then the president wised up and removed him.

However, Bannon is likely quite correct about what Trump may have done to his presidency by kicking Comey out the door and ushering in the Age of Mueller.

And isn’t it fascinating that someone who professes such admiration for Donald Trump might have given the special counsel — Mueller — an even more inviting target by talking about potentially grievous political consequences the president has delivered to himself?

Bannon got the boot, but he’s still around

I am going to admit something that critics of this blog will applaud: I am wrong far more than I am right.

So, when I am right — or when my suspicion turns out to be correct — I feel a need to call attention to it.

Stephen K. Bannon got the boot recently as one of Donald Trump’s key White House advisers. Chief of staff John Kelly showed Bannon the door. My suspicion was that Bannon wouldn’t disappear entirely, that he’d remain a factor in the president’s policymaking.

Dammit anyway! Bannon appears to be hanging around.

Here is what I posted on Aug. 20:

Bannon’s gone, but is he … really?

Bannon returned to his roots, as editor of the far-right-wing publication Breitbart News. He reportedly chats with the president, according to sources in the White House, when John Kelly isn’t around. Think about that for a moment. Does that sound like the action of a junior high schooler who steals a cigarette from Dad when the old man is looking the other way?

The bigger issue, though, is that Bannon’s ultra-right-wing world view — his anti-globalism, uber nationalistic, allegedly racist ideology — will continue to help inform whatever passes for policy from the president.

Bannon is a scary dude. He didn’t belong on the National Security Council. Trump eventually removed him from that post. He didn’t belong anywhere near the Oval Office, but there he was, sitting next to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who also has no business being near the center of power.

So he gets shown the door out the back of the West Wing. He now vows to be Trump’s “wing man,” that he’ll work to keep the GOP based fired up and putting pressure on the president to do their bidding.

Bannon is no longer employed by the White House. If only he was actually gone.

Bannon shown the White House door

I am being tangled up by competing impulses with the news that Stephen K. Bannon has been kicked out of the White House.

The senior political strategist for Donald John Trump is out. They’re calling it a “mutual agreement” between Bannon and White House chief of staff John Kelly. That’s clearly code for Kelly kicking Bannon squarely in the a**.

Bannon, the former editor of Breitbart News and a far-right provocateur, had no business serving among the president’s closest circle of advisers. He’s a scary dude. He detests what he calls “globalism.” Breitbart has become infamous for publishing commentary that is decidedly racist and anti-Semitic. For a time, Bannon had a seat at the National Security Council table.

To that end, the president did himself no favors — except with his hard-core base of supporters — by having Bannon sitting nearby and offering advice.

Accordingly, I’m glad he’s gone.

Bye, bye Steve.

I’m not proud of the other impulse, which is a desire to continue to watch the president continue to struggle. The new chief of staff has made a tangible impact on the White House operation. I once stated my desire to see Trump “succeed” because abject failure as president doesn’t bode well for a nation that needs stability within the White House machinery.

Trump’s definition of “success,” though, doesn’t comport with what I would like to see for the nation. I oppose the president’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, his rolling back of U.S. environmental regulations and the decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; those issues have Bannon’s fingerprints on them.

Where this all goes is now anyone’s guess.

Bannon is now free to speak his mind. Inquiring minds are going to press the former chief strategist to reveal what he knows about what’s really going on inside the West Wing.

The drama continues. So does the chaos.

Tillerson gets tossed under the bus … but why?

Rex Tillerson deserves a good word for sounding like a serious adult.

The U.S. secretary of state has declared that Americans should “sleep well at night,” even in the wake of the bellicosity coming from the North Korean dictator and the president of the United States.

What does he get from a member of Donald Trump’s national security team? Sebastian Gorka, a key member of the National Security Council, said that Tillerson is a diplomat and has no authority to talk about military matters.

There you go. A key NSC adviser tosses Tillerson under the bus. For what reason? For suggesting that the North Koreans aren’t about to launch missiles at the United States or that the United States is about to go to war with the rogue regime.

I tend to think of Tillerson as one of the grownups with whom the president has surrounded himself.

Gorka, on the other hand, provides another bullying voice for the president, as if Donald Trump needs any assistance in rattling nerves around the world. The president has done plenty of that all by himself with his “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded” rhetoric.

As for Tillerson, I’m going to presume he’s opened all the back channels he can find between Washington and Pyongyang. Perhaps he’s able to pass along to some North Korean functionary about the grave danger that can result from a foolish act of aggression.

Yep, the Russians are laughing at us.

Donald J. Trump tweeted the following, apparently early this morning: “Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.”

It’s rare that I agree with the president, but I have to endorse part of the message he fired off today.

They’re laughing at us, Mr. President … just not for the reason you tried to articulate in this nonsensical Twitter message.

The Russians are laughing at the chaos they have created by hacking into our electoral system and by seeking to swing the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

To be fair, nothing has been proven — yet — about what they might have accomplished. However, every intelligence agency and expert in many countries agree with the premise that the Russians tried to influence the election.

Look at what has happened since Trump took the presidential oath.

The FBI has said it is investigating whether the Trump team colluded with the Russians; the president’s son-in-law has become the subject of another probe; the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to examine the “Russia thing”; Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from anything to do with Russia; Michael Flynn was fired as national security adviser because he lied about his own Russian contacts.

They also might be chuckling and chortling over the president’s refusal to call the Russians out publicly for what all those intelligence agencies have concluded about their meddlesome ways.

Are the Russians laughing at us? You’re damn right they are!

‘Awful … but lawful’

A friend of mine asks whether Donald J. Trump has is perhaps guilty of being “treasonous” or “galactically stupid” if reports of what he allegedly did while visiting with Russian dignitaries turns out to be true.

I’ll stick with galactically stupid, although it’s a close call.

Media are reporting that the president revealed some highly classified/sensitive national security information to the Russian foreign minister and that country’s ambassador to the United States while they were calling on him in the Oval Office.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster — one of the few grownups comprising the president’s inner circle — offered a brief statement that said the story “as reported is false.” He said the president didn’t divulge any operational strategies. End of story … McMaster said.

Then the president fired up his Twitter account this morning and declared he was within his right as president to say what he said to his Russian guests.

I’m going to stick with what I heard National Public Radio’s Maura Liasson say this morning about what the president did. She said it falls into the “awful … but lawful” category of misdeeds.

Remember how candidate Trump pounded Hillary Clinton relentlessly over her use of a personal e-mail server while she was secretary of state? Do you remember the chants he invoked at his rallies: Lock ‘er up!”?

What do you know? The president might have supplanted Hillary in the careless and reckless realm of irresponsibility.

He likely didn’t break any laws, given that as president of the United States, he can declassify information merely by stating it in an unsecure context. If you or I were to do such a thing, we’d be arrested, cuffed, thrown into a cell and likely would spend the rest of our lives behind bars. Hey, rank has its privileges, you know?

The Washington Post and the New York Times are all over this story. The Post broke it Monday night and observers have been clamoring all over creation about how — if true — the president has endangered the trust that our allies have in sharing valuable security information with the United States of America.

Trump is about to fly to Saudi Arabia, Israel and The Vatican for his first overseas trip as president. What do you suppose the Saudis and Israelis will tell him about their plans to combat the Islamic State? What do you think they’ll feel safe telling him — even though none of this latest explosive news has been proven beyond a doubt? My gut tells me they will keep their knowledge of ISIS activities and their plans to fight the terrorists to themselves.

What the heck. Another week awaits. More drama is sure to erupt. Let’s all stay tuned and watch as this circus act takes wing.

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.

Time to lube the ‘machine,’ Mr. POTUS

Donald J. Trump’s “fine-tuned machine” has been misfiring almost since the jalopy rolled into the White House.

Now we hear that senior policy adviser Steven Bannon and the president’s son-in-law/adviser Jared Kushner are at each other’s throats almost daily.

Is this how a “fine-tuned machine” runs, Mr. President? Many of us out here in the peanut gallery don’t think that’s the case.

Trump pledged “best people”

The president vowed to surround himself with the “best people” ever assembled to run the government’s executive branch.

Bannon came on board after serving as editor of Breitbart News, the ultra-right wing media outlet. Kushner married well, as he is Ivanka Trump’s husband. Neither man has government experience. They’re both strong-willed, however, which might explain why they are fighting constantly.

Here’s another wrinkle.

Until this week, Bannon had a seat on the principals committee of the National Security Council. Then the president moved him off the panel.

Bannon’s been fighting with Kushner for weeks. The president loves his daughter and doesn’t want her husband injured while butting heads with Bannon.

Hmmm. Is there linkage between the bickering inside the West Wing and Bannon’s demotion from the principals committee?

Break out the lube oil, Mr. President.

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?