Yesterday, President Trump fired chief of staff Reince Priebus and replaced him with Homeland Security secretary John Kelly. Naturally, this has set off a new wave of rumors about more firings to come.
Surprising: admin sources told me they think Kelly hiring makes it more likely Trump ousts McMaster (who annoys him)
replaces him w Pompeo.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) July 29, 2017
Investigating: Rumors swirling in Wash circles and sources saying @realDonaldTrump "considering CIA Pompeo to replace HR" wait and see?
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) July 29, 2017
Sessions to DHS
Pompeo to NatSecAdv
McMaster gets 4th star & goes to Afghanistan
Bolton remains wildcard in background
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) July 29, 2017
And nothing concerning the White House would be complete without quoting Louise Mensch:
McMaster is a patriot; Mike Pompeo is a traitor.
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) July 29, 2017
I would be the last guy in the world to ever say that Trump can’t or won’t do something. That is a loser’s bet. But here is my take.
First, I think having Kelly in the chief of staff slot gives McMaster a stronger, not a weaker, position. McMaster and Mattis have an excellent working relationship and obviously see eye-to-eye with each other. They have teamed up with Tillerson to create a, in my view, stable foreign policy direction despite the chaos emanating from the White House. Mattis and Kelly have served together for decades. So Mattis will have a vote. Beyond that, the last thing Kelly is going to want to deal with is chaos at the NSC as the Iran deal is on the verge of being disavowed and North Korea has demonstrated that it has an ICBM that can threaten Washington, DC.
To move McMaster to Afghanistan requires the Army to direct an early retirement for the current commander, General John Nicholson, who has only been on station for 15 months. And it requires the Senate to approve both the promotion and the move. For this part to work, Mattis has to be on-board. This how CNN evaluated the situation the day before Priebus’s defenestration:
CNN has spoken to a number of government officials who say several scenarios are possible in the coming weeks, including the unlikely possibility McMaster could be transferred to command troops in Afghanistan or tapped as a new “special envoy” for South Asia, where he would oversee policy and strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. A senior administration official dismissed the notion as premature and not under serious consideration.
McMaster staying put as the national security adviser, the sources say, will depend largely on how comfortable Trump feels keeping him on in his current position amid all the disarray in the White House.
However, two intelligence officials caution that the warnings about McMaster’s fate that have arisen in recent weeks may originate from other factions in the administration trying to undermine the national security adviser’s authority.
“Bannon’s been undercutting him and NSC, but that’s nothing new,” said a Republican congressional aide. “It’s Game of Thrones over there.”
Beyond that, there are administrative problems that may be insuperable. Pompeo can move to CIA with no problem, but Pompeo’s successor must get Senate confirmation. That process will be neither quick nor easy and the odds of getting someone with as muscular a view of the CIA as Pompeo confirmed isn’t good. And this will be while another contentious hearing underway for Kelly’s replacement.
The scenario proposed by Obama-ite Colin Kahl is simply dipsh**tery distilled to its purest essence. Sessions is never going to be confirmed to any position by this Senate. There is just too much “met with the Russian ambassador” stink attached to him. Not to mention his actions since taking office. He can’t be moved laterally into Kelly’s job as the Vacancies Act is only triggered in the case of death or resignation.
I would expect McMaster to stay right where he is for at least a year. But I’m not certain enough on anything concerning White House personnel to bet on it.