Trump Chooses Army Strategist to Be National Security Adviser
President Trump picked Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a widely respected military strategist, as his new national security adviser on Monday, calling him “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.” Mr. Trump made the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago getaway in Palm Beach, Fla., where he has been interviewing candidates to replace Michael T. Flynn, who was forced out after withholding information from Vice President Mike Pence about a call with Russia’s ambassador. The choice continued Mr. Trump’s reliance on high-ranking military officers to advise him on national security. Mr. Flynn was a retired three-star general and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is a retired four-star general. His first choice to replace Mr. Flynn, who turned the job down, and two other finalists were current or former senior officers as well. Shortly before announcing his appointment, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter: “Meeting with Generals at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Very interesting!”
General McMaster is seen as one of the Army’s leading intellectuals, first making a name for himself with a searing critique of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their performance during the Vietnam War and later criticizing the way President George W. Bush’s administration went to war in Iraq. As a commander, he was credited with demonstrating how a different counterterrorism strategy could defeat insurgents in Iraq, providing the basis for the change in approach that Gen. David H. Petraeus adopted to shift momentum in a war that the United States was on the verge of losing. General McMaster’s challenge now will be to take over a rattled and demoralized National Security Council apparatus that bristled at Mr. Flynn’s leadership and remains uncertain about its place in the White House given the foreign policy interests of Stephen K. Bannon, the former Breitbart News chairman who is the president’s chief strategist.
Most of the N.S.C. staff is composed of career professionals, often on loan from military or civilian agencies, and they have complained privately about being shut out of their areas of expertise and kept in the dark about important decisions. Mr. Trump’s aides look on many of those holdovers from the last administration with suspicion, blaming them for leaks. The atmosphere has grown so toxic that some N.S.C. staff members have said they feared they were being surveilled. In addition to reassuring and reassembling the staff, General McMaster will have to figure out his own role in the month-old administration. Other candidates for the job reportedly harbored concern about how much authority they would have, although the White House has said whoever had the job would have the right to assemble his or her own staff.
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