Will National Security Advisor Lt. General H.R. McMaster be the next to go?

Since coming on board as President Trump’s new National Security Advisor, following the resignation of Lt. General Michael Flynn’s in February, the President’s first National Security Advisor, Lt. General H.R. McMaster has been a bit controversial to a number of people in the national security community. Many did not see him as quite a good fit for President Trump’s national security policy and positions on a number of issues and even his politics as an Establishment kind of guy. Additionally, many of us being former members of the Intelligence Community, and myself a former member of the NSC staff believe that McMaster has been secretly working against President Trump’s internationally focused “America First” strategy and plans as it applies to national security and foreign policy. Secondly, I for one believe that he is with not only the Washington political Establishment his positions echo “globalists”, and he personally, is not by any means a Trump loyalist, let alone a America First supporter.

The latest indication that McMaster was not working in concert with the Trump administration’s strategy came last week with the ouster conservative and hardline Trump Middle East Advisor Colonel Derek Harvey who was compiling a record of former Obama White House NSC holdovers in an effort to have them removed for suspicions of leaking and compromising national security policy. Further, McMaster had been forcing out and replacing General Michael Flynn’s hired people with Establishment and more left of center Clinton and Obama leaning policy and subject matter experts. All in all, essentially, McMaster is for the most part keeping the Obama lackeys on board, while purging the NSC staff of Trump loyalists and more conservative focused national security policy experts.

Further, it has been recently reported that H. R. McMaster has not really fired any NSC staff people who had worked for the Obama administration, this being nearly eight months into the Trump presidency. Furthermore, the fact remains that a number of those who worked for a number of Obama’s NSC senior officials to include, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, despite he himself being gone, many of his former staffers are still there on the Trump NSC staff. On top of this, it appears a Deep State personnel policy being has been made an exception by H.R. McMaster within the NSC and national security arena.

To make matters worse, for a number of months McMaster has become the subject of and the latest target of the leaks and a catalyst for a lot of the internal so-called infighting that have dogged the Trump administration, in the mainstream media – by staging leaks albeit false-narrative driven propaganda about the purported the chaos and disagreement between senior officials in the West Wing and other areas of the Executive staff. While President Trump has tried to put an end to disloyal White House staffers placing palace intrigue stories into the media, these episodes peaked last month with a war of words between chief strategist Stephen Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner that played out in the press. All were false and misleading and fake news oriented intent on giving the semblance of chaos in the White House.

Now, General McMaster, in recent weeks and months, a favorite of Washington’s GOP Establishment, the Clinton camp, and liberal Washington foreign policy establishment, finds himself in the crosshairs of White House officials loyal to the President as the administration mulls expanding the internal leaking across the Executive Branch the number one priority under new White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly, USMC (Retired). So the question that arises at this point is how this will play out for McMaster.

Most of this started according to those close to the White House who have described the latest scuffle as a power struggle between rival spheres of influence. The more liberal Foreign policy experts see the leaks as a reflection of a broader internal dispute over the appropriate level of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Some claim that Trump’s strategic advisor Steve Bannon is supposedly at the center of it. This is primarily because Bannon is a core architect of ‘America First’ nationalistic unilateralism and has no interest in continuing the forever-wars that lack support among the base in the region.

Likewise Afghanistan is for the most part the last U.S. intervention that you would perhaps want your name attached to with regard to the long war policy. If Trump ends up going with the generals’ recommendation and increasing troops there, even though as of this week it seems there is movement to withdraw completely perhaps, the America First crowd will want to make sure McMaster takes the fall when it — inevitably, in their view — goes badly, as was the case in Iraq under Obama. Right now the Afghan War strategy is being labeled; “McMaster’s War.”

Furthermore, in over the course of recent weeks and months, it has been reported that President Trump was boiling over with rage at McMaster and had berated him in front of White House staff. According to that report, the President has privately expressed regret for choosing subsequently McMaster to replace General Flynn, which I fully agree. And be it known Flynn while a friend was a fierce Trump loyalist who and reminded, that while in the media it was claimed that Flynn fired after only 24 days on the job amid controversy over his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, it was in fact a political set-up because Flynn was completely and totally disliked by the Obama administration, Establishment Republicans for knowing where all the skeletons are hidden from his days as Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director, among other things he knew going on within the Intelligence Community and its agencies. Further there are the reports that President Trump grew frustrated with McMaster for lecturing him on policy and not giving him a chance to ask questions at briefings.

In response to the suspicions about McMaster, The White House is now said to be cutting McMaster out of top-level meetings and has blocked some of his recent hiring efforts. Also there are reports that the President has had a private meeting with former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton about bringing him in for a top spot on the National Security Council, purportedly as a means of keeping in check McMaster’s power, perhaps until a full case can be prepared to validate the claims of McMasters leaking and to prevent him from countering current national security efforts.

Certainly, of course, the primary question now around Washington is in the wake of recent stories as to whether the leaks represent reality or are just misdirection from White House officials known to have plant embarrassing stories about their rivals in the mainstream media. Despite public claims by the White House senior officials, noting that the President couldn’t be happier with H.R. McMaster and White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that Trump has an excellent relationship with McMaster. Though there are definite concerns with staffers close to Bannon insist that Trump’s frustration with McMaster is real. Noting that the President has serious issues with his national security adviser.

Similarly with regard to McMasters leaking, they also allege that McMaster was behind several unflattering news stories about Sebastian Gorka, a Deputy Assistant to the President on national security issues. Recently, several news outlets had reported last week that Gorka was about to be fired or moved elsewhere in the administration after failing to secure a permanent security clearance. However, as with many stories about impending White House personnel changes, nothing has come or became of it.

Other concerns stemmed from among the Foreign policy experts say the infighting is indicative of a broader disagreement within the White House between anti-interventionists and an ascendant wing of hawkish generals. Of course on this front, McMaster is at odds with Trump on at least one issue. In this situation he has expressed frustration with Trump’s use of the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase that has been the lynchpin of the administration’s war against political correctness and its tough rhetoric on combating terror.

Other obvious evidence of the perhaps disagreements between Trump and McMaster is that while President Trump has given his generals and military advisers more autonomy, McMaster could have difficulty convincing the president to do anything such as the need to spring for more troops in Afghanistan. It should however be noted that the National Security Advisor does not have the power or the given authority to move or deploy troops or make decisions nor has the authority to recommend the actual deployment of troops – that falls in the hands of the Secretary of Defense and the President, period. Nevertheless, Donald Trump ran on an “America First” platform that is at odds with the U.S. becoming further embroiled in Afghanistan or other future wars if at all possible.

With regard to the current state of the situation with General Kelly now on board as the new White House Chief of Staff and the new bold direction given by the President to his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take a hardline against leaking across government it will be interesting to see what plays out in the coming weeks. My thoughts are that I don’t think General McMaster can survive fighting this out in the press. While he doesn’t represent a constituency within Washington, McMaster represents the views of about a thousand or so people in Washington, D.C., and while there’s a shine to him now, the second he gets into the ring of playing politics off against the President, he is done and he be viewed as perhaps corrupt and as dirty as the rest of those within the Deep State.

In the meantime, the President and his administration have been fanatically talking about the leakers. And with the suspicion of McMasters and the leaking, how did they solve the problem – they did so by cutting McMaster out of the meetings between Trump and Putin. Which to that end means President Trump seemed and or seems to think McMaster is the big leaker who’s been giving secret information to the media to help expose and support the left’s and the mainstream media’s false and fake narrative that President Trump’s treasonous relationship with Russia. That is in fact unbelievable, considering that McMaster had been in Trump’s earlier Oval Office meeting with Russia’s two Sergeys – Kislyak and Lavrov and that McMaster had bent over backward to insist that Trump hadn’t given any classified information during that meeting with the Russian visitors to the White House.

It’s enough to make you wonder if Trump accused McMaster of being the leaker after the first Russian meeting, and if that prompted McMaster to try to prove his loyalty to Trump by going to the media and lying on Trump’s behalf about what happened. If so, then it didn’t work. At the very least, it means that whatever President Trump was discussing with Vladimir Putin last month, he sure didn’t want his National Security Adviser to hear any of it.

So again, the question is, does the President and now his new Chief of Staff truly believe H.R. McMaster is leaking to the media and to other Deep State and former Obama officials still in the government: Or does he fear that when the ongoing investigations point a finger toward him McMaster might testify about what he heard in those Trump-Russia meetings or about other intelligence information he has had access to and could use to further embarrass or harm the Trump administration.

Likewise, Kelly cleaned out the Department of Homeland Security before he departed to become the White House Chief of Staff — it is obvious he will do and must do the same at the White House and within the Executive of the President. Will McMaster be in the crosshairs based on the new evidence and reporting that indicates he is possible culpable and complicit? We shall see where this goes.

Jim Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel, serving nearly 30-years as a career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer and special mission intelligence officer with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare. He served combat and combat-support tours in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as on numerous special operations and special mission intelligence contingencies in Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. He served as a special mission intelligence officer assigned to multiple Joint Special Operations units, and with the CIA’s Asymmetric Warfare Task Force, as well as in international and foreign advisory positions. He served as Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) during the peak years of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terrorism. He is a former White House National Security Council staffer and a former Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. He served as a senior advisor to the Commander U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and is Vice President of the Special Ops-OPSEC -- which provides strategic and operational security analysis and assessments to governmental and private entities, as well as media organizations on national security issues, policy, and processes. He currently provides advisory and consulting services on national security, international strategic policy, and strategy assessments for the U.S. and foreign private sector and governments entities, media groups and outlets, and to political groups, forums, and political candidates. He is an author and writer providing regular commentary and opinion to national and local TV, radio networks, and for both print and online publications, as well as speaking engagements to business, political, civic and private groups on national security matters – focusing on international strategic policy and engagement, and strategic intelligence, and subject matter expertise on special mission intelligence and operations, counter-terrorism, and asymmetric warfare and conflict.