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Cockburn Russia

Why did McMaster go?

March 23, 2018

4:39 PM

23 March 2018

4:39 PM

Everyone wants to know what caused President Trump to dump national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Today’s papers are saying it was because McMaster, addressing the Munich Security Conference in February, said he had ‘incontrovertible’ evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump was quick to signal his disapproval.

‘General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians,’ Trump tweeted, ‘and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems.’

A Washington source tells Cockburn that McMaster’s gaffe in Munich wasn’t the reason for his retirement. In this telling, McMaster had to go because of a security breach. 

On Tuesday morning, Trump spoke with Vladimir Putin after Putin’s not-at-all surprising victory in the not-at-all-reliable Russian elections. Trump’s team on the National Security Council, after applying their collective expertise to the geopolitical position, gave Trump a cue card that read ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE’.

Of course, Trump congratulated Putin. How do we know? Good question. That was a confidential phone call. The ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE’ note was part of the president’s confidential briefing papers. Only a small group of staffers are allowed to know the contents of the papers. Someone leaked it.

On Tuesday night, sources ‘familiar with the President’s thinking’ were reporting that Trump was ‘infuriated’ by the leak. Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly was described as being loyally ‘furious’ about it, too. Kelly was reported as planning an enquiry at the White House on Wednesday. 

“If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the Preisdent’s briefing papers,” a ‘senior White House official’ told CNN. “Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal.’

Trump made his call to Putin in what his aides call ‘executive time’; he was expected in the West Wing at noon, to meet Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. McMaster was frequently in attendance on Trump during these periods; as national security advisor, it was his job to be familiar with the President’s thinking.

Cockburn hears that McMaster, or a member of his national security team, were the source of the leak. That explains the timing: McMaster announced his departure from the White House and his retirement from the military on Thursday, only two days after Trump’s congratulatory call to Putin, and one day after John Kelly was meant to be hunting down the leaker. 

There is no room for misinterpretation in an instruction like, ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE.’ So perhaps McMaster simply felt that Trump’s decision to ignore it was the last straw. Perhaps McMaster knew he was on borrowed time after the departure from the State Department of fellow ‘adult in the room’ Rex Tillerson. Still, how did we get to hear about Trump’s phone call, if not from someone who was in the room at the time?

‘I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend,’ Trump tweeted yesterday. Translate that for the tag that will be written on McMaster’s career file after this week, and you get, ‘DO NOT RESUSCITATE.’

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