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Bolton vs. Biegun vs. Kellogg: the race for National Security Advisor

March 16, 2018

3:12 PM

16 March 2018

3:12 PM

Every day brings fresh reports of the imminent departure of H.R. McMaster. A Washington Post story on the subject elicited yesterday a classic non-denial denial from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary. It should be pointed out that reporting on potential firings often cools President Trump from actually following through (ask Rex Tillerson). But should McMaster actually go, Cockburn has news on some of the candidates:

  • John Bolton remains centre stage— the man to beat. Trump didn’t oust Tillerson until he had an eminently plausible replacement, Mike Pompeo. So far, Bolton has not consolidated support in a similar fashion: he’s more controversial. He’s mustachioed, militarist and something of a blowhard. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is wary of the rise of Bolton, a former George W. Bush man and Fox News eminence grise, as Cockburn has already suggested.  Nevertheless, Bolton’s renewed candidacy for the job, first reported in January by The National Interest, continues to advance and he shrewdly plods along in this endeavour, by the hour. It may not be the sudden coup Pompeo executed at Foggy Bottom earlier this week, but the former U.N. ambassador may soon head the National Security Council for want of a more attractive option. Unusually, Bolton canceled his weekly appearance on Breitbart radio Thursday, suggesting he’s trying to keep his head down.
  • Who else? Cockburn has learned a new name: retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, currently chief of staff and executive secretary of the NSC under McMaster. Kellogg could ascend through two avenues. First, Trump could just name him. Second, if McMaster becomes frustrated by his pummelling in the press and resigns, Trump could give Kellogg the top job on an interim basis; then, allies would then lobby for him to keep it permanently. The same scenario could play out if Trump were to sack McMaster, but without a formal, permanent (ha) replacement. But Mattis, among other administration skeptics, is also wary of Kellogg.
  • Stephen Biegun, the Bush 43 National Security Council alumnus now at Ford, remains in the mix. His candidacy was first posited by NBC. He has ties to Sen. John McCain and his allies, who of course have been such steadfast, dependable, and upstanding allies of President Trump throughout his administration and candidacy. That’s sarcastic, by the way.

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