Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney joined SiriusXM host Matt Boyle on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about the sacking of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Gaffney proposed that if President Trump wants more top officials who truly support his policies, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster should be the next to go.
Gaffney said Tillerson’s firing reminded him of the 1982 dismissal of Secretary of State Alexander Haig by President Ronald Reagan.
“He had a similar reason for firing General Haig, then secretary of state: because he had been double-dealing and otherwise insubordinate, occasionally even contemptuously insubordinate, of the president’s policies, specifically with respect at the time to something called the Siberian gas pipeline,” Gaffney recalled.
He described how Haig negotiated the pipeline deal with European powers in defiance of Reagan’s explicit directions, a situation very similar to President Trump’s reported anger at Tillerson for working with European interests to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive.
“I would just say that the Deep State isn’t so much what’s being removed at the moment. It’s kind of the shallow state,” he quipped. “You’re going to have to replace, I believe, both the kinds of people that the Tillerson team brought in – there were some who were White House people that he fought, but most of them in political appointee positions are Tillerson folks – but you’re also going to have to go after the State Department bureaucracy itself.”
“The fact is that the foreign service and the career civil servants there are notoriously hostile to President Trump. At the very least, Mike Pompeo is going to have to have people around him who will help ensure that the various bureaus – the regional bureaus, the key policy shops, including the policy planning staff under a fellow by the name of Brian Hook, it has been really a rogue operation – have to be brought into alignment with the president’s direction,” he recommended.
“If the president really wants to have the full benefit of the housecleaning that he has set in train, he’s going to have to remove as well Rex Tillerson’s enabler – who is, of course, the national security adviser to the president, H.R. McMaster,” Gaffney added.
Gaffney elaborated that President Trump must not only replace Tillerson’s immediate staff, but also a number of political employees appointed during both his own and previous administrations. He mentioned John DeStefano, head of the presidential personnel office, as another official who should be replaced.
He quoted former Breitbart News Executive Chairman and White House strategist Steve Bannon’s remark last year to the effect that the Trump administration’s “original sin” was “turning over personnel to the Establishment – to Reince Priebus and the RNC types.”
Gaffney said renovating the permanent bureaucracy at the State Department would have the “very salutary effect” of enforcing discipline upon people who believe they have permanent sinecures.
“Nothing makes the Deep State more aggressively subversive than having the perception that they’re going to get away with it,” he noted. “If there is, in fact, going to be some accountability, I think you may even get some better performance out of people who are generally not friendly to this administration but have the duty to serve the president and his direction.”
“I’m a big fan of Mike Pompeo’s. I think he is a splendid choice for this job,” Gaffney said of Tillerson’s replacement, the former director of the CIA. “I think he was a good choice for CIA, and I think he did acquit himself pretty well there.”
“There was a Deep State problem there, too,” he continued. “I think it’s no question this president has found himself sabotaged repeatedly by those who – like John Brennan, Mike Pompeo’s predecessor at the agency – were very hostile to this president and to his policies, and wanted to perpetuate those of the Obama administration.”
“Many of them are still there,” he pointed out. “There are lots of good people, there are people putting their lives on the line for our country, don’t get me wrong – but there are some, including in senior reaches, who should have been rooted out. I think it’s unfortunate that more of that wasn’t done.”
“Mike is a superb leader,” Gaffney said of the new secretary of state. “I’ve gotten to know him over these years in the Congress. He was the first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the military, had a successful career in business, great member of Congress, and I think will do a very good job as the secretary of state. He’s widely respected, I believe, on both sides of the aisle.”
“I’m less game on Gina Haspel, I must tell you,” he confessed, referring to Pompeo’s successor as CIA director. “Not because of her following the orders of the time on waterboarding and the extraordinary rendition program, but because she is part of this bureaucracy.”
“She has been, I believe, very closely aligned with John Brennan, and was one of the people instrumental in his so-called modernization of the American espionage services – the clandestine services, the director of operations – which was a euphemism for I think substantially weakening it, if not really emasculating it,” he charged.
Gaffney predicted that concerns would be expressed by the Senate Intelligence Committee about Haspel’s record, not just about her involvement in harsh but necessary interrogations after the 9/11 attacks, but for policies she was directly responsible for under CIA Director Brennan.
“The first order of business, particularly in the national security arena, is H.R. McMaster must go,” Gaffney stressed. “I mean, this guy makes Rex Tillerson look like the Boy Scout that he was very proud of being, in terms of serial insubordination to the president, having policy judgment that was very much at odds with the president’s.”
Gaffney cited McMaster’s dramatic declaration early in his tenure that he does not agree with using the term “radical Islamic terrorism” as an example of his policy differences with the president.
“That’s what the call in the intelligence business a ‘clue’ that this guy was going to be a problem,” he chuckled. “That was, of course, the term that the president used repeatedly in the course of the campaign and made a leitmotif of the early days of his administration. Here he brings in a guy as his national security adviser – the man overseeing Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis, and the intelligence community, and so on – who doesn’t agree with one of his most fundamental stances.”
“And that was just the tip of the iceberg,” he continued. “I believe he has undermined this president. His personnel choices – I mean, Johnny DeStefano is a piker compared to what H.R. McMaster did.”
Gaffney said one of McMaster’s most serious offenses was to “largely preserve the Obama staff at the National Security Council.”
“He purged the few people who were Trump loyalists, and brought in people who were not,” he said.
Gaffney said it is “just stunning that the president could find himself with such people” when he knows President Trump has repeatedly asked McMaster about getting rid of Obama holdovers.
“I think he lied to him on a number of occasions,” he alleged. “Then he finally announced that everybody was now a Trump person. Whether they were Obama holdovers or Trump people, he just said they were all Trump people. Well, that’s not how this town works.”
Gaffney likewise said DeStefano has “repeatedly put in place people who were not aligned with the president, who were not part of the Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ program,” but despite this he has been “promoted so that he’s not only in charge of personnel, he’s also in charge, as I understand it, of public affairs and policy at the White House – second only to Jared Kushner’s responsibility for everything in government.”
“This is just not right,” he declared. “I think the president needs to make some adjustments. I couldn’t be more proud of him for finally doing it with respect to Rex Tillerson. He will be so much better served.”
Gaffney concluded by suggesting Trump continue his personnel changeover by bringing in former U.N. Ambassador and frequent Breitbart News Daily guest John Bolton to replace McMaster as national security adviser.