Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss President Trump’s struggle to implement his agenda against opposition from Obama holdovers and the permanent bureaucracy, most notably at the State Department.
Gaffney felt President Trump has been listening to the Center for Security Policy and like-minded advisers “some of the time,” while some of his senior aides have been “not only listening but very much collaborating” in the struggle against the global jihad movement.
However, he added there are “clearly people in the White House complex, in the National Security Council, and notably in the Department of State who are deeply committed to ensuring that not only are voices like ours not heard, but that the president is essentially denied information, denied options that he has sought along the lines of what we have been recommending.”
He cited pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, and treating Qatar and Turkey as a “hostile power” and “non-ally,” respectively, as examples of such issues.
“Those are the sorts of things that are very troubling, that not just our recommendations are not being advanced as I’d like to see them in those quarters, but the president is actually being handicapped, undermined really, by people working for him who don’t want him to be able to exercise such options,” said Gaffney.
When Marlow asked Gaffney what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “taking a little time off” really means, Gaffney replied with a chuckle: “Heaven only knows.”
“There’s talk about him quitting, leaving at the end of the year, deeply frustrated, very much at odds with the president,” Gaffney said of Tillerson.
He said Tillerson had most notably failed to change “the State Department’s default setting throughout the Obama years” that the Iran nuclear deal is working perfectly.
“They’re complying with it, there are other problems but hey, the deal is going well and we want to stick with it,” Gaffney said of the State Department’s attitude. “The president apparently said the last time – about 90 days ago – that he was asked to certify that the Iranians were in compliance, the State Department went ahead and did that, and I think he was infuriated and said to them, apparently, specifically to Rex Tillerson the Secretary of State, ‘I want options for what I can do instead of what amounts to falsely certifying that they are in compliance 30 days on.’”
“Those 90 days elapsed last week, and lo and behold, the president was given just one option again, which is certify they are in compliance,” Gaffney continued. “He apparently hit the overhead. They spent hours thrashing around about it in the White House.”
“In the end, he was persuaded to go ahead and do it,” said Gaffney. “He’s evidently said to some of our friends in the White House, ‘I want you to come up with options that 90 days on, or sooner perhaps, will allow me to do something different than repeat this process and perpetuate the impression – for the Iranians most especially – that we’re going to let them continue to cheat and to most especially, most worryingly, continue amassing the capabilities to have nuclear weapons and to threaten us with them.'”
“The truth is that the State Department is a microcosm of what has been happening to the Trump administration more broadly,” he said. “I’m sure there are people throughout other agencies who are particularly horrified about State because it is being so aggressively insubordinate to the president. It is so determinedly pursuing the old Obama agenda, which the president was elected to replace.”
“Rex Tillerson was brought in for that purpose,” Gaffney recalled. “He was told, ‘I want you to get rid of a third of the personnel of the State Department. I want you to cut their budget.’ I think all of that was meant to be a corrective. Instead, it is still being run almost entirely by previous administration personnel. Rex Tillerson has seemingly gone native, as they say, at the State Department, or simply been overwhelmed by the staff there and the kinds of agenda that they’ve had.”
“Unfortunately, Alex, this is not that different from what has been happening in other agencies of the government, where apart from a very thin veneer of Trump personnel – some of whom are more loyal to him that others, I have to say – you have essentially not just the Deep State as it’s called, not just the permanent bureaucracy which is much in evidence, you have the Obama administration,” Gaffney told Marlow. “Surprise, surprise – they’re not with this president. In fact, they’re doing everything they can to scupper him, and I’m sorry to say that in some respects he’s helping them do that.”
“The point is, unless and until he cleans house, I think he’s going to find that the swamp critters are still running the show,” Gaffney predicted.
He disagreed with Marlow’s comment that much of the holdover and permanent bureaucracy is “disconnected” from Trump’s agenda, arguing that “deeply hostile” is a better description of their mindset.
“They’re simply using the opportunities that are available to them to sabotage it at every turn. Leaks is one part of it, Alex. As you know, you’ve watched this inter-agency process, such as it’s called, for years. What bureaucrats and political appointees as well were appointed to positions by Barack Obama are doing is, they’re actively promoting the old agenda and preventing the new agenda from being adopted, or even properly staffed,” Gaffney pointed out.
He cited Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson’s complaint that he is the only Senate-confirmed official at his agency as a troubling example of how President Trump’s inability to staff the administration with his own people is blocking his agenda and said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was “persisting in a delusion” by claiming that Obama holdovers have been eliminated from the National Security Council.
“You persist in that delusion and lo and behold, you’re going to be working from the previous administration’s priorities. You’re going to be doing the previous president’s bidding. And you’re going to be completely betraying the base, the American people who voted for Donald Trump to make the long-overdue course correction in so many of these national security and foreign policy areas,” he warned.
One of those policy areas is Afghanistan, where Marlow pointed to reports that Russia has been arming the Taliban, and the enormous expense of American blood and treasure to achieve minimal results has been strongly criticized by analysts like former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince.
Gaffney said he has spoken with Prince about his alternative proposal for Afghanistan policy and agrees with his recommendations.
“We’ve tried both simply bailing out of Afghanistan, notably under the Reagan administration I’m sorry to say. We’ve tried maintaining for some 16 or so years this heavy, what you might call ‘big army’ presence and effort, enormously expensive and prodigiously wasteful. We need a third way,” Gaffney argued.
He endorsed Prince’s plan for “using a technique that has worked elsewhere in the past,” such as the British East India Company’s example of “a skeleton of contractors who are deeply experienced foreign legionnaires, if you will, from various countries, who can go in and stay in a place like Afghanistan and work closely with the Afghan army, bring capabilities to bear that they don’t have, but at a fraction of the cost of us doing it, and with a fraction of the number of personnel exposed.”
“I think this is worth a try. I gather the president is exploring it aggressively. I hope that it will be given a chance, because it seems to me we can’t cut and run safely, and we can’t continue doing what we’re doing with any confidence that it will do more than simply reinforce the jihadists’ expectation that they will ultimately bleed us dry and prevail,” said Gaffney.
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