In a week which saw a historic level of instability and infighting within Donald Trump’s senior leadership team, it went barely noticed when National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster abruptly fired a member of the National Security Council for no apparent reason. And now it turns out Donald Trump is on the verge of firing McMaster himself, in what would be yet another chaotic White House shakeup which could also destabilize the CIA in the process.
The spectacle began under the radar when H.R. McMaster fired Derek Harvey from the National Security Council. The move was documented at the time by NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian (link), but it otherwise received relatively little attention. Harvey was a holdover from when Michael Flynn had been the National Security Adviser, and it appeared that McMaster was trying to eliminate what’s left of Flynn’s influence. But now it looks like McMaster may have simply been trying to fend off his own ouster.
After Donald Trump shifted Homeland Security Director John F. Kelly to the position of White House Chief of Staff, firing Reince Priebus in the process, New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush tweeted that according to his sources it’s “more likely Trump ousts McMaster (who annoys him)
replaces him w Pompeo.” (link). So now we’ve reached the point where Trump is about to fire a decorated military general who has been personally loyal to him, simply because he finds the guy to be annoying. But it gets stranger.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo appears to be the only head of any U.S. intel agency who is personally loyal to Trump. So if Trump shifts Pompeo from the CIA to National Security Adviser, it’s unclear who if anyone would end up in charge of the CIA. The Senate is increasingly hesitant to confirm any major new Trump appointees, for fear they may try to sabotage the Russia investigation from within. So this could leave the FBI and CIA in the hands of acting directors, at a time when Trump is also trying to oust the Attorney General.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report