H. R. McMaster Wins Another Round

There has been some commentary about Donald Trump falling out of love with National Security Adviser, LTG H. R. McMaster. This is the “Q Source” for the whole thing:


For the Washington establishment, President Donald Trump’s decision to make General H.R. McMaster his national security adviser in February was a masterstroke. Here is a well-respected defense intellectual, praised by both parties, lending a steady hand to a chaotic White House. The grown-ups are back.

But inside the White House, the McMaster pick has not gone over well with the one man who matters most. White House officials tell me Trump himself has clashed with McMaster in front of his staff.

Other White House officials however tell me this is not the sentiment the president has expressed recently in private. Trump was livid, according to three White House officials, after reading in the Wall Street Journal that McMaster had called his South Korean counterpart to assure him that the president’s threat to make that country pay for a new missile defense system was not official policy. These officials say Trump screamed at McMaster on a phone call, accusing him of undercutting efforts to get South Korea to pay its fair share.

This was not an isolated incident. Trump has complained in front of McMaster in intelligence briefings about “the general undermining my policy,” according to two White House officials. The president has given McMaster less face time. McMaster’s requests to brief the president before some press interviews have been declined. Over the weekend, McMaster did not accompany Trump to meet with Australia’s prime minister; the outgoing deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, attended instead.

Even McMaster’s critics acknowledge that he has professionalized the national security policy process and is a formidable strategist in his own right. Trump credits McMaster with coming up with the plan to strike a Syrian air base last month, which won bipartisan support in Washington.


There are a lot of moving parts here. This report is by Eli Lake who is as solid a reporter as you will find on national security.

The nexus of the issue is that the Bannon-ites are trying to force McMaster out. Their go-to guy is Mike Cernovich who has become a one-man McMaster hating machine. As Kate Brannen writes in a Foreign Policy article in which she calls this “Game of Thrones for Morons” she lays out McMaster’s problem:

It’s true that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for McMaster and Trump, but, in many ways, that friction was built into the job from the start.

“[McMaster] will always be on the outside looking in from so many circles,” the senior intelligence official said. “He isn’t family. He’s not a Bannon guy, and he’s still surrounded by Flynnstones.”

“Flynnstones” is the nickname given to people hand-picked to serve on the National Security Council by McMaster’s predecessor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. After Trump reluctantly removed Flynn in February, a handful of Flynn’s people also headed for the exits, but plenty still remain in their jobs.

“McMaster is surrounded by people who want him out, at least eventually,” said the source with knowledge of internal White House politics.

One of the sticking points, according to Lake, has been McMaster’s inability to backfill the deputy NSA position left vacant by the departure of K. T. McFarland (as an aside, what the f***ing f*** was Flynn thinking when he made her deputy NSA?)


And finally, the White House chief of staff himself blocked McMaster this month from hiring Brigadier General Ricky Waddell as his deputy, complaining that McMaster failed to seek approval for that pick. McMaster had asked his inherited deputy to leave by May 10; she is now expected to stay on for the time being.

Now that particular battle has been resolved.

Army Reserve Major General Ricky Waddell has been named deputy national security adviser, taking on a role that will soon be vacated by K.T. McFarland, two National Security Council officials told POLITICO.

Waddell will be second in command to National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, the sources said. Waddell, who became commander of the 76th Operational Response Command infantry in 2015, is the latest NSC hire by McMaster after former adviser Michael Flynn was pushed out.

Overall, for an outsider, McMaster has won a significant number of battles including dropkicking Steve Bannon from the NSC principals committee. But each victory probably costs him a little bit. At some point, he could be portrayed as the outsider diva who is a never ending source of drama in the White House. On the other hand, each of these wins enables him to build an NSC that is loyal to him. In the long run, I’d expect that even the Flynn acolytes will come around.


The real danger facing McMaster is Trump’s infatuation with being around people who are perceived as successful. We know Trump is a transactional being in all things and as long as McMaster continues to get praise from the right people, Trump will stick with him. But that is a fragile reed. Because McMaster has to be right just about 100% of the time.



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