Mark Collins – Trump Transition: National Security/Foreign Policy

Leaks, rumour, speculation–at Foreign Policy:

SitRep: Huge Changes in Trump NatSec Team; Pentagon Pick Likely This Week

Big day. Tuesday [Nov. 15] was a quite a day in the transition effort of President-elect Donald Trump. The announcements of ousters and new faces came fast and with little notice, giving the impression that the inner circle ensconced inside Trump Tower is either in chaos, or making good on its promise to smash the entrenched system to pieces.

First, former Republican congressman Mike Rogers was forced out from his role heading the national security transition team. A respected national security figure and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rogers was considered a top pick for heading CIA, a nomination now unlikely. Several other lower-level staffers were also sent packing in a move widely seen as a cutting of ties with people associated with Chris Christie, who was demoted on Friday from his perch running the transition process.

New faces on the team. Frank Gaffney, a prominent birther who has long questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States, was brought in to assist on national security issues, as were GOP U.S. Reps. Pete Hoekstra and Devin Nunes. Gaffney has long railed against Muslim immigration and warned that the Muslim Brotherhood has its tentacles deep in the U.S. government. He once said the new logo for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency was proof of Muslim infiltration.

Waiting on the SecDef. The list of potential Defense Secretary nominees has narrowed considerably since the speculation last week that a wide variety of Republicans, including longtime national security officials Stephen Hadley and James Woosley were in the mix, along with people like Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and recently ousted Republican senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte.

A source with knowledge of thinking inside the transition team played down those stories, telling SitRep that the team appears to be waiting for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to make a decision as to whether he wants the Pentagon job or not. The long-time Trump backer has his pick of several Cabinet positions. The source added that they expect an announcement on the SecDef nomination to come this week.

Pentagon officials told SitRep Tuesday that the Trump team has yet to reach out to start the transition process, but that the department has office space set aside, and has materials prepped for the upcoming meetings. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has put his chief of staff, Eric Rosenbach, in charge of the process.

Flynn in the mix. Retired U.S. Army three-star general Mike Flynn is still in the running for a top national security post, the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller tell us, but he’s beginning to experience some pushback. Any Senate confirmation hearing could be rough, given that he was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency by the Obama administration due to concerns over his leadership, “and he has potentially problematic connections to foreign governments.”

More from the Post: “Flynn has admitted that he accepted money for appearing at a lavish gala with Putin in Moscow last year. He recently criticized the Obama administration’s treatment of Turkey in an opinion column, without disclosing to the Trump campaign that his consulting firm has financial ties to that country.”

Where are the “Never Trumpers?” There’s increasing speculation over what role, if any, the much-publicized “Never Trump” coalition of veteran national security hands might play in the Trump administration. While any incoming administration values loyalty and rewards allies, “there aren’t enough people as it is, you can’t just start eliminating people,” one long-time Republican national security hand tells SitRep. The think tanker added that plenty of conservative analysts have been contacted by the transition team, but few have been interested in joining a Trump administration.

State competition. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton, former undersecretary of state and ambassador to the U.N. in the George W. Bush administration, are fighting it out for the nod to lead the State Department. But both face confirmation issues. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday that he would oppose both men for the job, given their vocal support for the war in Iraq, calls to bomb Iran, and other hawkish views.

Republican policy hands worried. Politico’s Michael Crowley and Shane Goldmacher have taken the temperature of several prominent Republican foreign policy leaders, and found them “newly alarmed over the emerging shape of Donald Trump’s national security team, after signs that Trump is passing over well-regarded establishment figures in favor of controversial and less experienced political allies.”

For how this is all playing out in the minds of some long-time Republican foreign policy hands, read this scathing take on the Trump team by Eliot Cohen, who had some contact with the transition team, but was repelled by what he saw…

Fun, Fun, Fun:

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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