The administration of Donald Trump has experienced a lot of turnover in its key personnel through its first 14 months. Just in roughly the last month the departed have included Rob Porter, staff secretary; David Sorensen, speechwriter; Hope Hicks, communications director; Josh Raffel, a communications aide who worked with Kushner; Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, and Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State.
Reports this week suggest that H.R. McMaster, a three star Army General who for a period taught military history at West Point, and who now serves as the President’s National Security Adviser, will soon join that distinguished list. McMaster is the second NSA in this administration’s history — he came on board when Michael Flynn departed 13 months ago. But the Washington Post is now reporting that McMaster won’t be the last, citing “five people with knowledge of the plans” to remove him.
POTUS apparently finds the daily briefings that McMaster provides tedious and irrelevant.
The WaPo story mentions John Bolton and Keith Kellogg as two of the most likely candidates for next NSA. Bolton was a prominent foreign policy adviser to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign and he is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Kellogg was in charge of defense matters for Trump’s transition team after the 2016 election and now works under McMaster.
Right Wing View
The Trump administration says that POTUS and McMaster have a good working relationship and that there is no impending change.
But as prominent neoconservative Bill Kristol has observed, it has to say that. Unless and until POTUS is ready to say goodbye immediately, he and those in his inner circle have to present to the public the appearance of a harmonious working relationship.
Trump enthusiast Mike Cernovich tweets that “sometimes Trump won’t fire someone if media reports it,” so whoever spoke anonymously to the WaPo might have preserved McMaster’s position.
Breitbart suggests that if McMaster is indeed on the way out, the impetus for this comes from “Trump’s other leading generals,” chief of staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Some conservatives are quite happy at the thought that McMaster will be leaving. One of these, Frank Gaffney, has said: “If the president really wants to have the full benefit of the housecleaning that he has set in train, he’s going to have to remove as well Rex Tillerson’s enabler … H.R. McMaster.”
Left Wing View
There is by now a familiar left wing story about the Trump administration and its departures. The story has it that much of the administration is a kindergarten, with only a few “adults in the room.” Every newly departing administration official gets characterized, by those who are using this frame, as having been one of the adults.
The rumored departure of McMaster entitles him, it seems, to elevation to this role. The Hill quotes a Democratic congressman predictably saying that “the adults are leaving the building” when asked about this report.
Some on the left see another pattern: the President, they say, is becoming more “assured,” more confident in his own judgments. Earlier in the administration he had to rely on Republican Party stalwarts whether he knew them or not, whether he felt comfortable with them or not. Now, though, he believes that he is in a position to put his own stamp everywhere.
Some on the left see McMaster’s pending departure as part of yet another Big Picture trend: Trump’s alignment with Putin and Russia. In recent days, as the United Kingdom has made clear that it blames Russia for the poisoning of a double agent (and that agent’s daughter) in Salisbury, McMaster has sided with the British view.
On twitter, leftists say that McMaster has been both “strong” and “truthful” about Russia, and that the timing of this leak to WaPo should not be regarded as a coincidence.