New details from those familiar with the circumstances of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s recent purge at the National Security Council paint a picture of a general who removed staffers over their loyalty or views, not because of their competence.
All three who were fired were given vague reasons why they were being let go, but they believe it was because they supported the president’s nationalist foreign policy agenda, according to sources close to them who did not feel comfortable speaking on the record. None of the sources have ever worked at Breitbart News.
The first casualty was Rich Higgins, who penned a memo warning that “globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans” were seeking to destroy the president.
A source close to Higgins said he had drafted the memo at home during his free time, to discuss with others who worked on the Trump campaign the “unique political situation” the administration was facing. The memo also warned that the White House did not take the threat seriously, and that those close to the president wanted to push him away from his base, which would make him politically vulnerable.
Higgins solicited input from several others, and sent the memo to his White House email address so he could print it out,— only sending it back to himself, according to the source. He then showed it to a few people in his office but did not email it to anyone from his work email, the source said. The memo, obtained by Breitbart News, was dated in May and did not have an author’s name.
On Tuesday, July 18, Higgins was brought into the White House counsel’s office and asked about the memo and what it was for. He was asked, “What if it leaked?” Higgins told the counsel, “We’re not trying to leak it.” He told them it was so that people from the campaign understood what they were up against.
That Friday, July 21, Higgins was called into the human resources office of the White House and told to stay there. In the room were several “Obama-era officials,” including a woman wearing a hijab who was the equal opportunity officer, according to the source. Secret Service arrived. McMaster’s deputy, Ricky Waddell came in, and told him, “Today’s your last day.”
Asked for a reason he was being fired, Waddell said, “We’ve lost confidence in you.” Higgins was given the choice to resign or be fired. He was “perp-walked” under escort out of the White House. He has not been contacted by the White House since that day as to his employment status, according to the source.
Parts of the memo were leaked to The Atlantic, and the source said those portions were selectively leaked so as to frame Higgins in a conspiratorial light.
The source said McMaster not only wanted to control the foreign policy development process — which would have been in his purview as national security adviser, but they say he also wanted to control “the free flow of discussion — just general discussion that had nothing to do with actual policy per se.”
McMaster allegedly “detonated” after he heard about the memo, and Higgins suspects the memo was found by searching through his email, the source said.
A source close to McMaster confirmed to Breitbart News that Higgins was fired over the memo, but said that McMaster has never seen the memo, had nothing to do with his firing, and that it was Waddell’s decision, of which he was informed afterwards and to which he did not object.
Next to be removed from the National Security Council was retired Army Col. Derek Harvey — a respected member of military and intelligence circles in Washington.
Speculation surrounding Harvey’s departure was that he rubbed folks at the Pentagon the wrong way, that he was a “Flynn guy” — a reference to Trump’s first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, or that he was an “Iran hawk,” or that he didn’t want to work with Russia.
But a source close to Harvey said those were reasons put forth by those trying to smear him. The source said Harvey actually worked for McMaster four separate times, and has never worked with Flynn. Harvey was actually close to former CIA Director David Petraeus, having served as his top intelligence analyst in Iraq and as an architect of the Iraq surge.
In fact, Harvey was recommended for the post by Newt Gingrich and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) — not Flynn, according to the source.
The source said McMaster fired Harvey because he wanted to support the president’s foreign policy agenda, which McMaster disagreed with “on nearly every” major area, including the Paris Climate Agreement, NAFTA, interventionism, Afghanistan, and whether there is such thing as “radical Islam.”
McMaster opposed the idea of Trump’s Riyadh summit in Saudi Arabia earlier this year because it was “too ambitious,” the source said. That summit was seen as marking the return to traditionally closer U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and a challenge to Iran’s rising power.
Harvey also drafted a plan to leave the Iran deal, but McMaster had advised the president that leaving the deal would lead to nuclear war, a former official told Breitbart News.
The source close to Harvey said McMaster believed that the idea of a “radical Islam” was “fallacious” and that terrorists were “just criminals.” McMaster’s attempts to scrub any mention of “radical Islam” from Trump’s speeches has been widely reported.
“He said, ‘We got to get the president off this agenda and stop this stuff,'” the source said.
McMaster is ignoring those who supported the president during the campaign, and is bringing on people who were Hillary Clinton supporters, former Obama officials, and people from the Brookings Institution, the source said.
McMaster “does not understand that Trump won,” the source said. “People who support Trump and are raising questions and trying to advance the president’s priorities — he doesn’t think they matter.”
Harvey had also reportedly made a list of Obama holdovers he presented to the president to be fired, but the source said that was “absolutely false,” and a smear by McMaster loyalists.
McMaster had also asked Harvey for dirt on Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Michael Anton, and others from the campaign, and Harvey refused, since he saw it as his role to support everyone, the source said.
The source said it particularly bothered McMaster that Harvey spoke with White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and the president’s son-in-law and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner.
McMaster had warned Harvey that if he supported Bannon and Kushner or “did anything untoward” with Kushner or Bannon that he would be fired, the source said.
Harvey had only six discussions with Bannon over six months, which McMaster didn’t like. “McMaster wanted absolutely loyalty to him, instead of supporting the president,” the source said.
The last straw came when Harvey was seen leaving Bannon’s office on the Friday before he was fired. McMaster had earlier asked him to put together a list of Trump’s foreign policy priorities, something only Bannon keeps track of, the source said.
That following Monday, McMaster’s executive officer, Ylli Bajraktari, a civil servant who served in the Obama administration at the Pentagon, told Harvey that it was not a “good idea” to talk to Bannon. That following Thursday, Harvey was fired.
“These guys are not messing around,” the source said. “They are going to try to hold on to their world view and enforce their world view on the president.”
The third casualty was Cohen-Watnick, who served as the senior director of intelligence programs on the NSC.
McMaster had wanted to put someone else in that position months ago, but Bannon and Kushner had ruled it out. Kushner had finally relented, leading to his removal on August 2.
McMaster told Cohen-Watnick that he wanted to bring in someone with “different experiences” were wanted in the position, a source close to him said.
“McMaster does not share the president’s view of America First,” the source said. “He’s trying to railroad him into decisions that are against what he wants to do.”
Although Trump has repeatedly stuck up for McMaster, the source said that the president has expressed impatience during meetings.
Asked whether Trump is aware of McMaster’s ideological differences, the source said, “Yes, I think he’s aware. He’s made comments before, like ‘You aren’t listening to me,’ and ‘I told you I’m not going to be doing things the same stupid way that’s been done in the last 18 years.”
In an interview with NBC News on Sunday, McMaster indicated more could be pushed out of the NSC.
Asked about Higgins’ memo and whether “that worldview” is “still represented on this National Security Council” or if it’s “something you’ve gotten rid of,” McMaster responded “there shouldn’t be a spot for them.”
“If there are those who, who come in, yea, with their own narrow agendas that aren’t there to enable the president, who aren’t there to serve the nation, then there shouldn’t be a spot for them,” he said.