Tillerson out, McMaster next?
In a series of surprise developments this week, President Trump relieved secretary of state Rex Tillerson and replaced departing economic adviser Gary Cohn with financial news commentator Larry Kudlow. Tillerson, Cohn, and Kudlow all oppose Trump's recently announced steel tariffs, but Kudlow says he agrees they can be an effective bargaining chip. Tillerson will be replaced by current CIA director Mike Pompeo.
Another Trump administration official who opposes Trump on the tariffs is national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Recent speculation puts him next on the chopping block. NBC News cited anonymous administration sources recently claiming that White House chief of staff John Kelly and defense secretary James Mattis are pushing for his removal, and that he may be gone in a month. According to Bloomberg News, Kelly has been seeking a new job for McMaster at the Pentagon. CNN claims that McMaster has looked into a position at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed these rumors, saying McMaster is " not going anywhere." There is no doubt, however, that many defense experts and Trump-supporters would like to see him gone.
A controversial figure at best, McMaster has been fingered as the person responsible for the ouster of many of Donald Trump's most qualified and loyal NSC staff, including deputy national security advisor K.T. McFarland, Rich Higgins, Adam Lovinger, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and Sebastian Gorka. He has defended numerous Obama administration holdovers, even renewing a security clearance for Susan Rice, one of Obama's most notorious serial prevaricators. He is also cited as being responsible for re-engaging the U.S. military in Afghanistan and pushing other policies candidate Trump opposed.
McMaster is a protégé of defense secretary Mattis and disgraced former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus. He has strong support in the Senate from John McCain. He is regaled by such left-wing, partisan outlets as New York magazine and the Washington Post. On CNN's Anderson Cooper, political commentator Bakari Sellers said, "[A]s a Democrat you're honestly thankful that he's there[.]" He has even been defended by David Brock's left-wing smear shop, Media Matters. For most Trump supporters, these are not endorsements. McMaster has also been accused of benefiting from an inflated and, in at least one aspect, wildly inaccurate résumé as a military strategist.
However, if rumors are true, McMaster's replacement may not be any better. Topping the list is Steve Biegun, vice president of international governmental affairs for Ford Motor Company. Biegun is another McCain acolyte. He led the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute, which has been chaired by McCain since 1993, and was McCain's foreign policy adviser during the 2008 presidential campaign. He is described as a neocon and held numerous staff positions in Congress and the Bush White House, including under former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Reportedly, Rice and Mattis have been advocating Biegun to Trump. Jack Posobiec, Navy veteran and founder of Citizens for Trump, tweeted:
Perhaps most telling is Biegun's position as board adviser to the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a wealthy, influential D.C. think-tank. Its panel of experts include numerous former Obama, Bush, and Clinton advisers. Tax filings from 2016 show income of almost $15 million. While it claims to be "bipartisan," in Washington, D.C., that means surrender to the omnipresent D.C. leftist establishment. It receives donations from a long list of left-wing funders, including George Soros's Open Society Foundations ($305,550 in 2016); the Sandler Foundation ($3.3 million, 2008-2009); Rockefeller ($300,000 for a Clout and Climate Change "war game"); the Tides Foundation ($100,000, 2009-2012); the Ploughshares Fund ($415,425); and even Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton insider John Podesta, who gave between $25,000 and $50,000 in 2017. It has received over $2.2 million in grants from the U.S. government between 2013 and 2017 and receives donations from the governments of Japan, Britain, and the United Arab Emirates (the "transit hub" for Islamic terrorists).
CNAS was heavily involved in promoting President Obama's Iran deal. The Ploughshares Fund, a leader in the effort, donated $320,000 to CNAS between 2014 and 2017 specifically "in support of the negotiated settlement with Iran on its nuclear program." Boeing, Airbus, and General Electric, which stand to lose multi-million-dollar contracts with Iran if the nuclear deal fails, donated up to $1 million to CNAS in 2017 alone. Current editorials by CNAS Middle East expert Ilan Goldenberg are critical of President Trump's posture toward Iran.
Biegun can be expected to push the CNAS Iran agenda if chosen to replace McMaster. There is little hope that Biegun, as another McCain ally and a firmly established creature of the D.C. swamp, will be any better than McMaster. He will definitely please the Washington establishment and will be championed by national security "experts" here and abroad, because for most of their patrons, anticipated trade with Iran trumps all other considerations. Furthermore, for the left, deeply entrenched within the foreign policy establishment throughout the West, it also means elevating the power and status of the sworn enemies of America and Israel, because our destruction is the left's great unspoken ambition.
A second candidate is Oracle CEO Safra Catz. Catz served on Trump's presidential transition team, a move that prompted Oracle senior staffer George A. Polisner to resign. Named the 12th most powerful woman in business by Forbes in 2009, Catz was born in Israel and would be a strong supporter of the Jewish state. The Zionist Organization of America has pushed for McMaster's removal, accusing him of being anti-Israel and in favor of the Iran nuclear deal. ZOA might back Catz, who last summer convinced billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a strong supporter of ZOA, that McMaster has to go. However, experience on national security issues is conspicuously absent from Catz's résumé.
The most suitable candidate reportedly under consideration is John Bolton, a man with unmatched foreign policy credentials and numerous major accomplishments spanning decades. Bolton visited the White House last week under wide speculation that he will replace McMaster. Unlike Biegun, he is a loyal Trump-supporter who would not undermine the president's agenda, but rather be a firm backstop against the D.C. establishment's self-serving machinations and leftist tilt. Unlike Catz, he has spent his entire career working national security and foreign policy issues.
Let's hope President Trump will discontinue his seeming tendency to cultivate swamp support by hiring its bad actors. Bolton's appointment would go a long way toward convincing the American majority that President Trump remains firmly committed to making America great again.
James Simpson is an economist, businessman, author, and investigative journalist.