The past two weeks haven’t merely seen the ouster of several of the most visible members of Donald Trump’s senior staff. There has also quietly been the ouster of several key people from the National Security Council who were closely allied to Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon. It appears National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has been behind the NSC purge. And now there’s a notable effort by Russia to smear McMaster, in what may be an attempt at saving Bannon’s job.
It’s not entirely clear whether McMaster has been purging the Flynn and Bannon loyalists from the National Security Council because he’s trying to oust Bannon from the White House, or because he’s trying to prevent Bannon from ousting him. There have been widespread rumors that both McMaster and Bannon are in danger of being fired by Trump. And at this point Trump seems to be willing to fire any of his own loyalists in the hope of shifting the narrative of his failing presidency, so no one is safe. Considering that Trump has allowed McMaster to fire all these Bannon loyalists, including Ezra Cohen-Watnick yesterday, it suggests that Trump is not interested in protecting Bannon in his face-off with McMaster. But what is clear is that Russia is stepping in and siding against McMaster.
The Alliance for Securing Democracy has been tracking the activities of Russian trolls and bots on social media, to determine which narratives the Kremlin is trying to push at any given time. As was pointed out this evening by Alexander Panetta of the Canadian Press (link), the new top social media messaging priority from the Kremlin is to smear McMaster and push for his firing. This leads to the question of what the Kremlin’s motivation is for doing so, and who benefits the most from this effort.
H.R. McMaster has been firing Michael Flynn’s loyalists, and of course Flynn has direct ties to the Kremlin. But it’s not as if the Kremlin is intervening to protect Flynn, because he hasn’t been on the job in six months. And it’s not as if the Kremlin can bring back the Flynn loyalists who have just been fired. So the logical conclusion would be that the Kremlin is intervening to try to oust McMaster because it wants to protect Steve Bannon in his feud with McMaster. As odd as that sounds, it’s where the arrows are now pointing.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report