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Donald Trump1 has picked HR McMaster to be his national security adviser, replacing Michael Flynn, who was ousted only 24 days into the job. Lieutenant General McMaster2, a serving general, is a highly regarded military veteran with experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served as senior adviser to General David Petraeus during the Iraq war. After announcing the appointment from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the president hailed Lt Gen McMaster as a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience , adding, he is highly respected by everyone in the military and we re very honoured to have him.
The appointment of Lt Gen McMaster caps the end of a tumultuous week in the White House after the sudden removal of Mr Flynn3 amid questions over the former general s ties to Russia and his misrepresentation of phone calls he had with the Russian ambassador before the administration had taken office. Mr Trump s first choice to replace Mr Flynn, Robert Harward4, a retired admiral, turned down the job over concerns he would not be able to hire his own staff. Comment
This appointment could be a turning point in US foreign policy, writes Gideon Rachman
Tuesday, 21 February, 2017
Mr Trump said Keith Kellogg, who had been his acting national adviser, would stay on at the National Security Council as chief of staff . Mr Kellogg had been in the running for the security adviser position, together with John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN under George W Bush. On Monday Mr Trump said Mr Bolton, although not taking on the top role at the NSC, would still be working with the White House, albeit in a somewhat different capacity . Speaking from Mar-a-Largo, where he had joined Mr Trump for the official announcement of his appointment on Monday, Lt Gen McMaster said he looked forward to joining the national security team and doing everything that I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people . In 2014, Lt Gen McMaster was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and described as a pre-eminent warrior-thinker and the architect of the future US army . He also was praised for his 1997 book Dereliction of Duty, which explored the failings of US military leaders during the Vietnam war. Lt Gen McMaster, 54, is one of several generals serving in Mr Trump s cabinet .
James Mattis, Mr Trump s defence secretary, is the former commander of US Central Command, while John Kelly, Mr Trump s director of homeland security, is a retired four-star Marine corps general. It was not immediately clear whether Mr Flynn s deputies at the NSC would be staying on or whether Lt Gen McMaster would be allowed to hire his own staff, a point of contention for some candidates under consideration for the role. John McCain, the Republican senator and chair of the Senate s armed services committee, praised Lt Gen McMaster s appointment . Lt Gen HR McMaster is an outstanding choice for national security adviser, he said . I have had the honour of knowing him for many years, and he is a man of genuine intellect, character and ability.
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While the world watched the US refuse entry to Muslims1 on Saturday, President Donald Trump restructured his National Security Council in a move that further empowered Steve Bannon2, his increasingly influential White House consigliere. Mr Trump issued a presidential memorandum which stated that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the top military adviser to the president, and the director of national intelligence, head of the intelligence community, would no longer be automatically invited to meetings of the principals committee, the most senior grouping of national security officials . They would participate only when issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed . But in a move that pointed to the rising influence of Mr Bannon, the former head of the far-right Breitbart News media group was appointed to the committee . Mr Bannon joined the Trump campaign as chief executive last August . The move was controversial because the former Goldman Sachs 3banker ran a media group that pushed stories catering to white nationalists . Mr Bannon has denied that he is racist, arguing that he is just an economic nationalist . But the disheveled former naval officer who compares himself to Darth Vader has drawn the wrath of critics who see his hand guiding Mr Trump s racially tinged populism. The administration just added Steve Bannon with his ties to a news organisation that traffics in anti-Semitism and white supremacy to the National Security Council
Mr Bannon s role in helping the New York businessman win the election by letting Trump be Trump has made him ever more influential . Including Mr Bannon in the most senior NSC meetings makes him arguably one of the two most influential aides in the Trump inner circle, along with Jared Kushner, the president s son-in-law . The other key power centres inside the White House are Mike Pence, the vice-president, Kellyanne Conway, a special adviser and informal spokesperson, and Reince Priebus, the chief of staff.
When Mr Trump appointed James Mattis4, a respected retired four-star marine general, as secretary of defence, and tapped John Kelly, another retired general, to run the homeland security department, some of his critics saw the moves as a sign that he would surround himself with experienced people . But Democrats lambasted the decision to give Mr Bannon, who has no government or national security experience, such a prominent role . He was recently criticised for describing the media as the opposition party , a view to which Mr Trump subscribes. Tim Kaine, the Virginia senator who served as Hillary Clinton s running mate, said he had voted for Mr Mattis and Mr Kelly because of the importance of the NSC, and castigated the decision to give Mr Bannon such an influential position . The National Security Council sadly has some really questionable people on it . The national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, is a pro-Russian conspiracy theorist . The administration just added Steve Bannon with his ties to a news organisation that traffics in anti-Semitism and white supremacy to the National Security Council. Susan Rice, former national security adviser to Barack Obama, described the move to exclude the DNI and the chairman of the joint chiefs from some meetings as stone cold crazy . On Twitter, she continued: After a week of crazy .
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As part of the NSC, the principals committee includes the secretaries of state, defence and homeland security . It is one of the most powerful groupings since it serves as the forum where cabinet secretaries debate national security issues for presidential action. Sean Spicer5, White House spokesman, said Mr Trump wanted to make the NSC less bureaucratic and more focused on providing relevant intelligence. Asked on ABC television why Mr Bannon was being put on the committee, Mr Spicer said he was a former naval officer with a tremendous understanding of the world and the geopolitical landscape that we have now . During the Obama administration, and particularly during the tenure of Ms Rice as national security adviser, the NSC was often criticised for holding endless meetings to debate issues, which resulted in delayed decisions on policy. Eric Edelman, a Republican who served as the number three official in the Pentagon during the administration of George W Bush, said that while Mr Bannon appeared to have played a large role in the first week of the Trump administration, it was too early to draw conclusions, given that many cabinet officers including Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil nominated for secretary of state had not yet been confirmed or installed. Mr Edelman said Mr Bannon s NSC role was not unlike Mr Obama allowing senior political advisers such as David Axelrod to attend meetings . He said Mr Bush did not involve Karl Rove, his closest political adviser, in the NSC to avoid the appearance of allowing politics to be involved in national security . But he pointed out that top political aides tend to play a bigger role during the period that administrations are being formulated.
Over time it is not at all clear they continue to play that equally important role . The balance of power can shift quite a bit over time, said Mr Edelman . People want to jump to gigantic conclusions here but that is probably not warranted yet.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo and Sam Fleming on Twitter: @dimi and @sam1fleming
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