Gen. Mike Flynn resigned from his post as National Security Adviser last night after revelations that he misled Vice President Pence and Gen. Mattis on the nature and content of phone calls with Russian officials.
Flynn was under increasing pressure, and the administration was reportedly already looking to make a move. Washington Post Bureau Chief Phillip Rucker quoted an official as saying, “I think Flynn just figured, if it’s imminent to the boss, then let’s make it immediate.” So with the force-out on the way, and Vice President Pence seemingly very unhappy about being hung out to dry, Flynn is out. Which leaves an open spot and question.
National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg has been named to fill the office while a new National Security Adviser is selected. But who will get the nod?
obvious replacement is @AmbBolton, esp with competence across many issues key, and esp w/ North Korea firing off missiles, as even a quick
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) February 14, 2017
Bolton’s tougher stance on Russia would be a welcome change from Flynn, who was practically cozy with the Russians (and apparently the feeling was mutual.) The ‘Stache is also popular in wide swaths of the Republican base. The downside is the more basic Trump partisans see him as a “globalist” or whatever the hot buzzword is this week. Friction.
Acting Adviser Kellogg himself has his followers, who would view him as a more Mattis-like replacement for Flynn. Kellogg is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal and Silver Star, and was an Army Ranger. He was an advisor to the Trump campaign staring in March of last year, and, like Gen. Mattis, has a pretty healthy “legendary” status among those who have served with him.
As we all know, there was a heavily reported power struggle between Democrat Flynn and Gen. “Mad Dog” Mattis after both were named by Trump to their respective positions. Both Vice President Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus seem to be on the Mattis side of that fight. Kellogg could be more in tune to that alignment than Bolton. The White House confirmed he is being considered for the post.
One name that is coming up quite a bit is Vice Admiral Robert Harward, who the Weekly Standard‘s Stephen Hayes reports is “leading contender” according to a White House source. Harward is a former SEAL, former Deputy Commander at CENTCOM (under Mattis), and a Mattis protégé, whom the general has referred to as “brilliant.”
Another leader for the spot is former Obama CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus. The most name-recognition by far on this list, Petraeus of course also has the most baggage. His affair that led to his resignation, as well as being investigated and taking a plea on charges of sharing classified information, are not a good narrative for the Trump administration, especially in the wake of lax security at the Mar-a-Lago resort this week. Petraeus was one of the names floated for the position of Secretary of State, which nod obviously went to Rex Tillerson (who, like Flynn, was also a Russian-friendly pick.)
Obviously I consider Petraeus … let’s say less than ideal, and I’m not alone. Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter laid it out pretty straightforward on Twitter after the resignation and subsequent replacement buzz:
I respect GEN Petraeus's service, but he
1. Is a convicted felon
2. Violated the UCMJ
3. Supports gun bans
He cannot be in the Admin.
— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) February 14, 2017
Politico has a few other names that are reportedly in consideration, including former National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush, Stephen Hadley. But the leaders seem to pretty clearly be the four men listed above.
For my money, Kellogg and Harward would be the smart choices. Even taking into account the President’s practice of pitting rivals against one another in his administration, a solid Mattis-aligned appointment would be a smart move. John Bolton would be fantastic, and maybe as Hugh says he’s the obvious choice, but there would be a political price to pay for President Trump, and I’m not sure it’s one he’s willing shell out.
Thanks Robert George for the nifty zinger.