National Security

Trump Almost Brought Nunes Into His Administration

New York Times: “The Trump team was so impressed with Nunes that, according to the transition official, it considered bringing him into the administration. A few weeks after the election, the congressman traveled to Trump Tower, where, according to transition officials, he and Trump discussed the possibility of his becoming the director of national intelligence and overseeing an ambitious reorganization of the intelligence community. But Trump ultimately decided to shelve those plans and appoint as director a less disruptive figure, Dan Coats, a former Indiana senator. Besides, with Pompeo leaving Capitol Hill for Langley, Trump’s circle believed that Nunes would be even more valuable to the administration if he remained in Congress, running the Intelligence Committee.”

“Some 17 months later, that looks to have been a remarkably prescient decision — as Trump appears to have been able to influence Nunes to a remarkable degree.”

Russia Is Jamming U.S. Drones Over Syria

NBC News: “The Russian military has been jamming some U.S. military drones operating in the skies over Syria, seriously affecting American military operations, according to four U.S. officials. The Russians began jamming some smaller U.S. drones several weeks ago, the officials said, after a series of suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in rebel-held eastern Ghouta. The Russian military was concerned the U.S. military would retaliate for the attacks and began jamming the GPS systems of drones operating in the area.”

Trump and Generals Have Different Ideas on Warfare

Washington Post: “Trump and the military hold frequently opposing ideas about exactly what winning means. Those differences have played out in heated Situation Room ¬debates over virtually every spot on the globe where U.S. troops are engaged in combat, said senior administration officials. And they contributed to the dismissal last month of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster who as national security adviser had pressed the president against his instincts to support an open-ended commitment of U.S. forces to Afghanistan.”

“Trump’s words, both in public and private, describe a view that wars should be brutal and swift, waged with overwhelming firepower and, in some cases, with little regard for civilian casualties. Victory over America’s enemies for the president is often a matter of bombing ‘the shit out of them,’ as he said on the campaign trail.”

Trump Gets Testy at National Security Team

President Trump “grew irritated with his top military brass and national security team on Tuesday when they advised him an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Syria would be unwise and could not provide a timeline for when American forces could exit,” CNN reports.

“In a sometimes-tense meeting of his national security team, Trump complained at length about the amount of American money being spent in the region, which he said had produced nothing for the US in return.”

Can Mattis Hold the Line In Trump’s War Cabinet?

New York Times: “A year into Trump’s tenure, Mattis has become a quietly central figure in an administration of near-constant purges. He may be the lone cabinet member to have survived with his status and dignity intact, and in the process his Pentagon — perhaps the one national institution that is still fully functional — has inherited an unusually powerful role in the shaping of American foreign policy.”

“The removal of Tillerson and the national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, has further reduced the core of the group once known as the ‘committee to save America,’ underscoring Mattis’s unique position and putting even more weight on his relationship with the president. Although their conversations are a tightly guarded secret, Trump is said to consult Mattis regularly about a wide range of subjects.”

Trump Presses Military to Pay for Border Wall

“President Trump frequently said Mexico would pay for a wall along the southern border as he sought the presidency in 2016. Now, he is privately pushing the U.S. military to fund construction of his signature project,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump, who told advisers he was spurned in a large spending bill last week when lawmakers appropriated only $1.6 billion for the border wall, has begun suggesting that the Pentagon could fund the sprawling construction, citing a ‘national security’ risk.”

How Bolton Will Be Different on Russia

Politico: “In their public comments, McMaster and Bolton have presented a stark contrast in their views on Moscow’s involvement in the hacks and online trolling that roiled the 2016 presidential election. While McMaster has taken a hard-line stance in blaming Moscow for orchestrating the digital disruption campaign, Bolton has made headlines by casting doubt on Russia’s role.”

McMaster Will Be Replaced by Bolton

“Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations,” the New York Times reports.

“General McMaster will retire from the military… He has been discussing his departure with President Trump for several weeks, they said, but decided to speed up his departure, in part because questions about his status were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials.”

Trump Will Soon Oust His National Security Adviser

President Trump “has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements, according to five people with knowledge of the plans, preparing to deliver yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up.”

“The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and un­certainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.”

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“When I hear what Vladimir Putin was saying just yesterday about the nuclear capabilities he has, the President of the United States is tweeting about Alec Baldwin this morning, I mean, where is your sense of priorities? I think a lot of Americans are looking at what’s happening with a sense of — this is surreal. And I’m hoping that those in Congress as well as the 30 percent of Americans out there who still believe in what Mr. Trump is saying, will look past that and say, are we really doing what we need to do as a country to protect ourselves and ensure our children and grandchildren are going to be remain safe, secure and prosperous in the future? And I have my serious, serious doubts. And the longer this goes on, the worse it’s going to get.”

— Former CIA Director John Brennan, in an interview with MSNBC.

Nuclear Missile Threat Is a ‘Red Line’ for Trump

“The Trump administration is considering military action against North Korea if the rogue regime successfully builds a nuclear missile capable of hitting the United States… Senior national security officials believe a nuclear armed Pyongyang represents an unacceptable risk to the U.S.,” CNN reports.

“Beyond the missile threat to the U.S. homeland, the national security officials pushing for military action believe that if North Korea becomes a full nuclear power, it will proliferate, potentially sharing nuclear and missile technology with states such as Iran, Pakistan and Libya, and non-state actors.”

Putin Claims Nuclear Arsenal Can Avoid Missile Defenses

Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia has developed nuclear weapons that can avoid any missile defense systems, the Washington Post reports.

“He also warned that Moscow would consider any nuclear attack, of any size, on it or its allies an attack on Russia that would lead to an immediate response — adopting Cold War-style overtones that appeared to ramp up Russia’s posturing against the West and its allies.”

“The speech, broadcast on Russian television, comes less than three weeks before a March 18 presidential election that is expected to hand Putin his fourth term.”