President Donald Trump has named his new national security adviser, military strategist Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, a man whose name sounds like he should be a character in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. The naming comes a week after Michael Flynn, Trump’s previous national security adviser, resigned amidst revelations of discussion about sanctions with Russian officials.
McMaster is a career military strategist who will be stepping into a role dealing with immediate issues from North Korea, Syria and Iran. So much for a “Welcome to the job” Carvel ice cream cake.
Other possible candidates were Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellog, Jr., who served as acting adviser this past week, and Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, who turned down Trump’s offer.
Flynn resigned after it came out that he had several conversations with Russia’s ambassador. The calls, which were recorded, included discussion of the sanctions former President Obama placed on Russia. Flynn alluded that once Trump was sworn into the office, the sanctions might be lessened.
That, however uncouth, is not technically illegal and allegedly not why Flynn resigned. In actuality, Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence. He told Pence that sanctions had not come up in conversation, and Pence repeated that lie—unwittingly—on national television. Big no-no. Yuge. That little lie put, according to the Justice Department, Flynn at risk for blackmail by Moscow.
During Trump’s first solo press conference, he claimed that the media’s coverage of Flynn is what led to Flynn’s resignation. Which…okay. In one moment, he claimed that the leaks were true, but the news was fake because “so much of the news is fake.” Flynn’s interactions with Russia were poison to the Trump White House because it added another dimension to the Trump-Russia connection, something Trump is trying to distance himself from.
Flynn’s resignation was quick Monday evening, with Kellyanne Conway asserting early Monday that Flynn had the full confidence of Trump and later Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, told press that President Trump was evaluating the situation. According to Spicer, Trump was told by the Justice Department weeks ago that Flynn had not been truthful and had been evaluating him since then.
The resignation of Flynn follows a month of changes in the White House, described by Senator John McCain (R-Ari.) as “in disarray.” In Trump’s first month, he saw his immigration ban be hastily implemented and then overturned, his pick for Secretary of Labor, Andy Pudzer, withdraw his nomination, another nomination—Betsy DeVos—be the source of contention and Senate gridlock, leaks from within the White House, and a member of his private club posting Facebook messages about the White House official carrying the nuclear codes.
In comparison, while I am not the leader of the free world, all I managed to accomplish this month was finally getting a haircut. It looks good, fyi.