Peter Schweizer: Obama Holdovers Gain Ground in Trump’s National Security Council

National security adviser H.R. McMaster listens during the daily press briefing at the White House, Monday, July 31, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, talked about the purge of “America First” members of the National Security Council on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily.

SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam argued that the staff of the National Security Council has come to resemble “effectively the people that Hillary would have had in there if she was president.”

“I think there’s a couple of things going on here, Raheem. That’s exactly right,” Schweizer agreed. “You’ve got a cadre of people on the National Security Council that are holdovers from the Obama administration, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.”

“The problem is that people in the White House staff are loyal to the people that hired them, particularly when the boss – the person that hired these NSC staffers who are still there – worked for Barack Obama. Barack Obama, of course, is highly critical of Donald Trump. You’re not going to have the kind of loyalty that you need from a White House staff,” he said.

“I don’t mean loyalty in the sense of, everybody walks in lockstep,” he added. “You want to have a diversity of opinions. But there’s just no question that NSC staffers hired by Barack Obama who obviously identify with his policies are not going to be supportive of the kind of policies that Donald Trump wants to carry out.”

“Part of the problem, I think, is that with H.R. McMaster you have a gentleman who is a distinguished military officer, and in the military, in a sense, command staff is interchangeable. If you work for General Smith, and you get transferred to work for General Jones, you are supposed to make that transition seamlessly, and a lot of them do. That’s the sort of professional ethos in the American military, and that’s what McMaster is used to,” Schweizer explained.

“That’s not the way things work in political Washington, D.C. The vast majority of the leaks that are coming out of the White House are coming out of the NSC from these Barack Obama holdovers,” he observed.

Schweizer said there was still hope for the NSC if President Trump becomes directly involved, “making it clear to General McMaster that he wants people there that are loyal to his agenda.”

“There’s no question, as you put it, that Barack Obama’s people are making up ground and advancing at the National Security Council,” he told Kassam. “People that have been let go are recent hires, so what you don’t have are people that are Trump supporters, that share Trump’s view of the world, making up ground and getting the sort of institutional knowledge that you need to have from people who are serving in the White House.”

“It is a lot of people in Obamaworld that are steering the information, and more particularly the advice, that’s being given to the president,” Schweizer cautioned. “Again, I can’t emphasize enough: General McMaster, very esteemed military officer, that’s where he came from. He does not have political experience outside of the military, and the American military is completely different in this regard than an institution like the White House, where political loyalties are hugely important and staffs are not interchangeable.”

Schweizer stressed that he holds McMaster in very high regard, but questioned his view that “the American military works so effectively in this regard, and that people are interchangeable, and that people are loyal to the mission.”

“I think he is transposing that in the White House. I think that’s part of it,” said Schweizer. “I think you also have, no question, there’s a tug-of-war going on in the White House between people who have what’s been called a more ‘globalist,’ or a worldview that essentially wants the United States to be more interventionist, be involved in things like nation-building around the world, and a faction that is more reflective of what at least Trump had said during the campaign, which is he wants the United States to have a far more limited role around the world.”

He placed McMaster squarely in the “globalist” group, but added he also has a clear desire to “serve the president well.”

“I just don’t think he’s doing so right now, in the manner in which he is handling the National Security Council,” Schweizer lamented.

Kassam asked if McMaster was being steered in this unproductive direction by outside influences, a question Schweizer found difficult to answer, although he was inclined to believe McMaster follows his own philosophy.

“I think it’s kind of naive, frankly, about the way Washington works,” he said. “But you also have, there’s no question, other people circling around the president and in senior positions in the White House who do have a philosophical or ideological view of America’s role in the world that’s very different from the president’s. That grouping, of course, would include people like Gary Cohn. It would certainly include Jared Kushner.”

Schweizer said this group has been “far more favorable to the globalist view – the United States needs to be involved in a lot of international institutions, we need to have a lot of international obligations like the Paris treaty.”

“I give McMaster a pass in the regard that I don’t think he has that same ideological commitment that others do, but that said, he’s still not serving the president well because I don’t think he is grasping the sort of institutional machinery that you need to have in the White House, the fact that you need political loyalists there giving it advice,” he said.

Schweizer repeated that presidents “need to be given diverse opinions and views,” but their advisers must retain the mindset that “we want this American president to succeed, to look good, and to ride high.”

“You’re not going to get that from people on the NSC who are hired by Barack Obama and are loyal to him,” he contended.

Kassam concluded the interview by asking Schweizer for his take on Wednesday’s RAISE Act press conference, announcing a new merit-based immigration policy. Schweizer said Kassam was correct to describe it as the policy Americans voted for in 2016.

“For the life of me, I’m not quite sure what all the objections are to,” said Schweizer. “You know, the United States is often compared to other countries, whether it’s the U.K. or Canada, and the argument is always that those countries are so much more humane in so many areas. Well, these are in effect the immigration policies that lots of those other countries have.”

“The simple point is that there is no ‘right’ to immigrate to the United States,” he said. “My parents were immigrants, they came from Europe. I believe in immigration, but we should be encouraging, and we should be insisting upon, immigrants that come to the United States have skill sets and are a net benefit to the country. I don’t mean they all need to have PhDs, but they do need to be people that work hard.”

“I think it’s a very good step forward, and I think the reaction that a lot of activists on the left are having is going to backfire, because this is a common-sense move that I think the vast majority of Americans think makes complete sense,” Schweizer said of the RAISE Act.

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