Posts Tagged ‘H.R. McMaster’

Nurse charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of H.R. McMaster’s elderly father

May 12, 2018

A nurse was charged in the death of the father of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

H.R. McMaster
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 3, 2017.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
  • Christann Shyvin Gainey, 30, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, neglect, and records tampering in the death of H.R. McMaster Sr.
  • Surveillance video showed that Gainey failed to conduct a series of eight neurological evaluations of McMaster as required, prosecutors said.
  • Gainey then allegedly falsified documents to make it seem she had.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A nurse was charged Thursday in the death of the father of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser after authorities said she failed to give him a series of neurological exams following his fall at a Philadelphia senior care facility.

Christann Shyvin Gainey, 30, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, neglect and records tampering in the death of H.R. McMaster Sr.

The 84-year-old retired U.S. Army officer died April 13, about eight hours after falling and hitting his head at the Cathedral Village retirement community.

Surveillance video showed that Gainey, who worked as a contract nurse at Cathedral Village, failed to conduct a series of eight neurological evaluations of McMaster as required, prosecutors said. Gainey then allegedly falsified documents to make it seem she had.

H.R. McMaster Sr

H.R. McMaster Sr., the father of H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser.
Courtesy of the McMaster Family/AP

Gainey’s attorney, Sharon Piper, said her client intends to plead not guilty. She declined further comment, as did Gainey’s employer, General Healthcare Resources of Plymouth Meeting.

McMaster’s son, H.R. McMaster Jr., served as Trump’s national security adviser from February 2017 until he resigned in March.

“Our father … was a tough and compassionate soldier and public servant,” McMaster’s daughter, Letitia McMaster, said in a statement. “The best way to honor his memory is for all of us to do all we can to prevent others from suffering at the hands of those who lack compassion and abandon even the most basic standards of human decency. Today’s charges are an important step forward in that connection.”

McMaster was admitted to Cathedral Village on April 9 for rehabilitation following a stroke. Three days later, according to court documents, he was found on the floor of his room by a nursing assistant, who alerted Gainey, the charge nurse.

Cathedral Village policy mandates close neurological monitoring of patients who hit their heads, including assessments every 15 minutes for the first hour and every hour for the next three.

An assistant nursing director told police that after McMaster’s death, she asked Gainey whether the nurse had conducted the required evaluations of McMaster. Gainey replied she had and said, “They were fine,” according to a police affidavit.

Christann Shyvin Gainey

Christann Shyvin Gainey.
Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General/AP

When the supervisor noted the last entry on McMaster’s neurological chart indicated that an evaluation had been performed 20 minutes after his death, Gainey told her, “Well, I falsified that one,” the affidavit said.

Police reviewed about eight hours of surveillance video and concluded Gainey had failed to perform a single neurological exam.

A medical examiner ruled McMaster died of “blunt impact head trauma.”

“Gainey could have saved Mr. McMaster’s life had she simply done her job. Instead, she intentionally ignored her job responsibilities, falsified paperwork, and lied to her supervisors to cover up this inexcusable conduct,” Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference Thursday.

Cathedral Village said in a statement last week that it removed “outside agency staff involved in the incident,” re-educated staff on neurological checks and protocols for responding to suspected abuse and neglect, and began a new initiative to prevent falls.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health inspected Cathedral Village after McMaster’s death, but the results aren’t yet available.


Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania.


H.R. McMaster’s Father dies after blunt impact trauma to the head — In nursing home

April 19, 2018

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Authorities in Philadelphia are investigating the death of the father of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, sources tell CBS3.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, H.R. McMaster Sr., the father of Gen. H.R. McMaster, died on April 13 at the Cathedral Village Retirement Community located in the 600 block of East Cathedral Road.

H.R. McMaster Sr.

LEFT: H.R. McMaster Sr. (CBS3) |  RIGHT: Photo of Gen. H.R. McMaster via ERIC BARADAT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES


The health department confirms he died of blunt impact trauma to the head and the manner of death was determined to be an accident.

But sources tell CBS3 that Philadelphia police and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office are investigating the possibility of institutional neglect after he fell.

“We are working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department to thoroughly and carefully review this tragic incident. This investigation is in the very early stages,” says the attorney general’s office in a statement.

Sources could not provide further details at this time.

gettyimages 683807172 Sources: Officials Investigating Death Of Father Of Former Trump National Security Adviser

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 16: National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster answers questions during a press briefing at the White House May 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. McMaster defended the President Donald Trump’s decision to share intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during an Oval Office meeting last week. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

CBS3 interviewed H.R. McMaster Sr. in 2017 when his son became the national security adviser.

“I’m very proud of him and he has never disappointed anyone who knows him or who he’s ever served with,” McMaster Sr. said.

Gen. McMaster served under Trump as the 26th National Security Advisor. In April, he resigned from his role and was replaced by former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.

Cathedral Village has not responded to requests for comment.

Sources: Officials Investigating Death Of Father Of Former Trump National Security Adviser

Trump Bowed to Pentagon Restraint on Syria Strikes

April 16, 2018

President was dissuaded from more robust action, in first test of new national-security team

President Donald Trump spoke in the Cabinet Room of the White House last week at the start of a meeting with military leaders.
President Donald Trump spoke in the Cabinet Room of the White House last week at the start of a meeting with military leaders. PHOTO:SUSAN WALSH/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump deferred to his Pentagon chief’s caution and tempered his preference for a more robust attack on Syria over allegations it used deadly gas on civilians, the first hints at the direction of his revamped national-security team.

The decision late last week, detailed by people familiar with the process, marked the first substantive test of the group now that John Bolton is serving as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser.

After days of tense White House meetings, the president and his advisers agreed on one of the most restrained of the military-strike options crafted by the Pentagon: a powerful missile attack aimed at three targets meant to hobble the Syrian regime’s ability to use chemical weapons and deter President Bashar al-Assad from using them again.

The outcome was a sign of the sizable influence Defense Secretary Jim Mattis still wields in the reorganized national-security team. Faced with a push from the president for a muscular response to the alleged chemical-weapons attack that killed at least 43 people, Mr. Mattis presented the White House with three military options, according to the people familiar with the decision-making.

The most conservative option would have hit a narrow set of targets related to Syria’s chemical-weapons capabilities.

The second option proposed strikes on a broader set of Syrian regime targets, including suspected chemical-weapons research facilities and military command centers.

The most expansive proposal, which might have included strikes on Russian air defenses in Syria, was designed to cripple the regime’s military capabilities without touching Mr. Assad’s political machinery.

The most ambitious of the proposals was three times the size of the one eventually carried out by U.S., British and French forces.

Mr. Trump approved a hybrid plan that saw more than 100 advanced missiles fired at the three Syrian targets early Saturday. That action reflected a melding the first two options: modest missile strikes, but ones the Trump administration said delivered a decisive blow to Mr. Assad’s chemical-weapons capabilities.

While Mr. Trump pressed his team to also consider strikes on Russian and Iranian targets in Syria if necessary to get at the Assad regime’s military equipment, Mr. Mattis pushed back, those familiar with the decision-making said.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley had joined Mr. Trump in calling for more forceful response, while Mr. Mattis warned about the risks that a more expansive strike could trigger a dangerous response from Moscow and Tehran, according to the people.

Officials at the White House, Defense Department and U.N. didn’t respond to questions about the decision-making process.

Mr. Trump often expresses conflicting impulses on overseas entanglements—he remains eager to withdraw troops from the Middle East, for instance, but was adamant about a quick and forceful military response in Syria last week—and his newly assembled national-security team had been working together for less than a week before the bombing campaign was launched.

Mr. Bolton, a one-time U.N. ambassador and former Fox News commentator who has argued for military responses against Iran and North Korea, worked to forge a difficult compromise, the people familiar with the process said.

Conscious of his public image as someone quick to favor military action, Mr. Bolton pressed for what he considered a “ruinous” strike that would deliver a concrete blow to some part of Mr. Assad’s regime, but not the most aggressive options, according to one person familiar with his thinking.

Syria Airstrikes: Video Footage

U.S., British and French forces struck sites associated with Syria’s chemical-weapons capabilities on Friday. Above, a Syrian soldier films the damage. Photo: AFP/Getty

Mr. Bolton knew the respect Mr. Trump had for Mr. Mattis, and he may have decided that it was wise to defer initially to the Pentagon chief after he started the job, according to the people familiar with the decision-making. When the two first met at the Pentagon a few weeks ago, Mr. Mattis jokingly told Mr. Bolton that he had heard he was “the devil incarnate,” a reputation the new national security chief understood followed him into the West Wing.

Mr. Bolton also realized that the most robust option might drag the U.S. more deeply into the conflict and force him to take responsibility for a greater U.S. role in the civil war, according to the people familiar with the decision-making. He felt that was too much for his first week on the job, they said.

On Sunday, the Trump administration followed up its military strike with an economic one. Ms. Haley said the U.S. would impose new sanctions on Russian companies selling Mr. Assad equipment that could be used to rebuild his chemical-weapons capabilities.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday he persuaded Mr. Trump to remain engaged in Syria and to limit airstrikes to chemical-weapons targets. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders didn’t address Mr. Macron’s comments directly, but said Mr. Trump “wants U.S. forces to come home as quickly as possible.”

The eventual U.S. decision was the work of a national-security team still taking shape. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo has been nominated to become Mr. Trump’s second secretary of state, replacing Rex Tillerson, who was an ally of Mr. Mattis in previous administration national-security debates. Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel, nominated to replace Mr. Pompeo, is bracing for tough questions from senators about her role in overseeing harsh post-Sept. 11 interrogation techniques.

Like Mr. Bolton, Mr. Pompeo is also widely viewed as favoring an assertive foreign policy. When he appeared before senators last week for his confirmation hearing, Mr. Pompeo said his image as a military hawk was mistaken.

Still, Messrs. Bolton and Pompeo are aligned in wanting to take a more forceful approach toward Iran and North Korea, two of America’s most troubling adversaries.

Right before taking the job, Mr. Bolton wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal in which he argued that North Korea posed an “imminent” threat to the U.S. and that the Trump administration had every right to launch a pre-emptive strike.

Mr. Mattis repeatedly clashed with Mr. Bolton’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, over the administration’s approach to North Korea. The defense secretary, who has warned publicly about the risks posed by a military confrontation with North Korea, chafed against White House requests for aggressive military proposals against Pyongyang, according to U.S. officials.

The Trump administration is preparing for high-stakes talks with North Korea over its nuclear-weapons program, but a breakdown of that effort would likely heighten tensions in the volatile region.

Write to Gordon Lubold at and Dion Nissenbaum at

On Usual “Carrot and Stick” Diplomacy, John Bolton says “I don’t do carrots.”

April 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — Shortly after Ambassador John R. Bolton was sent to represent the United States at the United Nations, an institution he had long scorned as an anti-American citadel of corruption, he hosted President George W. Bush for a visit.

“Are you having fun?” Mr. Bush asked.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” Mr. Bolton replied.

Mr. Bolton, who takes over Monday as President Trump’s third national security adviser with Syria as his most immediate challenge, and talks with North Korea and the future of the Iranian nuclear deal not far behind, loves nothing more than a good target. Over a long and colorful career he has had many of them: the United Nations, first and foremost. But also the International Criminal Court and the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. North KoreaIranChinaRussia. The Palestinian Authority. The European Union.

And then there are “the Crusaders of Compromise,” as he terms the elite of the national security world; the diplomats he refers to as “the High Minded,” with the capital H and capital M; “the True Believers” of the arms control priesthood. And, of course, Republicans who succumb to such muddled thinking, like Colin L. Powell, Condoleezza Rice and even Mr. Bush.

But as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, the targeter is now slated to become the facilitator, charged with mobilizing the policy apparatus rather than simply taking aim at it. He will start by cleaning house. The first change came Sunday night when the National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton stepped down.

Combative, relentless and proudly impolitic, known for a bushy mustache that is the delight of cartoonists, Mr. Bolton, the enfant terrible of the Bush administration, has a kindred spirit of sorts in Mr. Trump, a fellow practitioner of blowtorch politics. When Mr. Bolton moves into Henry A. Kissinger’s old corner office in the West Wing, it will be a Trumpian marriage of man and moment.

And yet Mr. Kissinger mastered the office by mastering his relationship with a sometimes volatile boss. For Mr. Bolton, the new assignment may require a form of diplomacy that his previous roles did not, one that eluded his predecessor, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, as well as Rex W. Tillerson, the recently ousted secretary of state.

Mr. Bolton may amplify Mr. Trump’s most bellicose instincts, as their critics fear, but the two differ in key areas and even admirers wonder what will happen then.

“How will he manage Trump?” asked Eric S. Edelman, an under secretary of defense under Mr. Bush who was often allied with Mr. Bolton. “Trump may love to see John defending him on Fox News. But when John is going to be responsible for policies, he has very strong convictions on things, some of which won’t line up with the president’s.”

“John’s personality is also fairly explosive like the president’s,” he added. “I don’t know how that will work out. That will be John’s big challenge.”

‘Americanist’ Meets ‘America First’

Mr. Bolton defines himself as an “Americanist” sworn to defend the interests of the United States. Too often, in his view, America has sacrificed its own sovereignty following the chimera of global governance.

“This is almost identical to President Trump’s theme of America First,” said Frederick Fleitz, a former intelligence officer who worked for Mr. Bolton. “Mr. Bolton disagrees with many of the Washington elite, or maybe the international elite, who think globalism or multilateralism should be a priority over the security of the United States. That’s exactly where President Trump is.”

In the world of carrot-and-stick diplomacy, Mr. Bolton is a stick man. “I don’t do carrots,” he has said. Opponents call him a warmonger who never met a problem that did not have a military solution, and he remains a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq and has made the case for strikes against North Korea and Iran to stop their nuclear programs.

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Trump calling his own shots — Be careful what you wish for…. moderating forces mostly gone

April 1, 2018

‘Tired of the wait game’: White House stabilizers gone, Trump calling his own shots

By  Philip Rucker and Robert Costa
The Washington Post

   White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly listens as President Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on March 8. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Trump is defiant and singularly directing his administration, making hasty decisions and bringing on advisers expected to encourage his instincts.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump began the past workweek cutting into steaks at the White House residence on Monday night with his political soldiers, including former advisers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, strategist Brad Parscale, and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

He ended it dining on the gilded patio of his Mar-a-Lago estate with eccentric boxing promoter Don King, who said he vented to the president about the Stormy Daniels saga. “It’s just utterly ridiculous,” King said he told a nodding Trump on Thursday evening as the president began his holiday weekend in Palm Beach.

Nowhere to be seen was John F. Kelly, the beleaguered White House chief of staff and overall disciplinarian — nor were the handful of advisers regarded as moderating forces eager to restrain the president from acting impulsively, who have resigned or been fired.

The gatherings neatly illustrated an inflection point for the Trump presidency. Fourteen months into the job, Trump is increasingly defiant and singularly directing his administration with the same rapid and brutal style he honed leading his real estate and branding empire.

Trump is making hasty decisions that jolt markets and shock leaders and experts — including those on his own staff. Some confidants are concerned about the situation, while others, unworried, characterize him as unleashed.

President Trump arrives Thursday at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida for the Easter weekend. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

President Trump has nominated Navy Rear Adm. and White House physician Ronny L. Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

The president is replacing aides who have tended toward caution and consensus with figures far more likely to encourage his rash instincts and act upon them, and he is frequently soliciting advice from loyalists outside the government. As he shakes up his administration, Trump is prioritizing personal chemistry above all else, as evidenced by his controversial selection of Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The president is in an action mood and doesn’t want to slow-roll things, from trade to the border to staffing changes,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “He wants to make things that he’s been discussing for a while happen. He’s tired of the wait game.”

This dynamic — detailed in interviews with 23 senior White House officials and outside advisers, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments — is evident in multiple realms.

Trump is domineering his strategy regarding the expanding investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, in effect acting as his own lawyer. He is clamoring to reject the counsel of his attorneys and sit for an interview with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whom he has maligned by name.

On policy, Trump is making sudden decisions without much staff consultation, wagering that they will pay dividends — accepting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation for a face-to-face meeting and threatening to veto before ultimately signing the most recent government spending bill.

On the stump, Trump is an improvisational showman. He swooped into the working-class Ohio town of Richfield on Thursday to pitch his infrastructure plan but diverged from his script to deliver surprise commentary on a medley of issues. He threatened to delay a newly renegotiated trade deal with South Korea and announced that the United States may soon withdraw troops from Syria.


The president’s unbridled eruptions continued Saturday in a pair of tweets hammering and falsely stating that “the Fake Washington Post” was acting as a lobbyist for the retail behemoth. The Washington Post operates independently of Amazon, though the newspaper is owned by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.

All the while, Trump is trying to keep in touch with the cultural zeitgeist. Trump called Roseanne Barr to congratulate her on the success of ABC’s “Roseanne” revival. “Look at Roseanne!” Trump bellowed in Ohio. “Look at her ratings!”

Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York mayor and longtime Trump friend, said the president is entering a new phase: “It took time for the president to discover how far he could move things and find the pieces that fit. Now, he sees he has an open field.”

To many beyond the White House, the Trump White House appears dangerously dysfunctional. Theodore B. Olson, a Republican former solicitor general, declined to join Trump’s legal team in the Russia matter.

“I think everybody would agree this is turmoil, it’s chaos, it’s confusion, it’s not good for anything,” Olson recently told anchor Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. “We always believe that there should be an orderly process, and of course government is not clean or orderly — ever. But this seems to be beyond normal.”

But people close to the president offer a different view.

“I don’t see anything under siege; I see it as the Big Red Machine,” incoming National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow said, referring to the championship Cincinnati Reds baseball teams from the 1970s. “The only people under siege are reporters who don’t like President Trump — and those guys need some significant therapy. I could recommend some awful good people in New York.”

A quartet of senior West Wing aides who spent several hours a day with the president and were considered stabilizing forces are gone. Hope Hicks’s last day as communications director was Thursday. Gary Cohn was replaced as chief economic adviser by Kudlow. H.R. McMaster was dismissed as national security adviser. And Rob Porter departed as staff secretary amid allegations of spousal abuse.

Outside the West Wing Rex Tillerson often challenged Trump as secretary of state, but the president fired him and nominated as his successor CIA Director Mike Pompeo. He is known for agreeing with Trump, as is John Bolton, the incoming national security adviser.

“This is now a president a little bit alone, isolated and without any moderating influences — and, if anything, a president who is being encouraged and goaded on by people around him,” one Trump confidant said. “It really is a president unhinged.”

Other than Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the lone remaining enforcer is Kelly. But his power as chief of staff has been diminished. Officials said the days of Kelly hovering in the Oval Office morning to night and screening the president’s calls are over. Trump is largely circumventing Kelly’s strict protocols.

The president recently reached out to some people Kelly had sought to excommunicate, calling former communications director Anthony Scaramucci to banter about politics and inviting Lewandowski and Bossie to dinner in the residence.

“He’s rotating back to the people who actually like him and is more willing to take advice from those people,” Scaramucci said. “They’re more honest with him, and he’s more comfortable with them.”

Allies said Trump is reverting to the way he led the Trump Organization from his 26th-floor office suite at Trump Tower in Manhattan. There, staffers were functionaries or lawyers, and many of his advisers were outside the company — rival business leaders, media figures and bankers. Back then, Trump controlled his orbit himself from behind his cluttered desk, relying on assistant Rhona Graff to field calls.

Trump has welcomed friends to the White House recently, including former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who visited Tuesday and met with Bolton, among others. And the president has turned to outside surrogates to carry his messages. After consulting with Trump, Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy went on ABC’s “This Week” on March 25 and revealed that Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was expected to be removed. Trump fired him three days later.

“It was the direction [Trump] was always bound to take,” said Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official. “The phone book at the White House was filled by complete strangers. . . . But now he knows how the White House operates, and he’ll operate it himself.”

Ascendant in the West Wing are advisers who play to Trump’s gut: Kudlow on tax cuts and deregulation, Bolton on a muscular approach to foreign affairs, Peter Navarro on protectionist trade policies, Stephen Miller on crackdowns on undocumented immigrants and Kellyanne Conway on an open press strategy and tangling with reporters.

Like Conway, Bolton and Kudlow are seasoned cable news commentators who share Trump’s hard-charging instincts and have no illusions about his governing style. Officials said they are expected to cater to the president’s wishes and seek to avoid the internal knife fights that have befallen many a Trump aide.

Kudlow has told Cohn’s top deputies that he would like them to stay on in their posts, a gesture that West Wing aides described as a reflection of Kudlow’s respect for Cohn’s operation as well as his understanding of the difficulties he would probably encounter if he attempted an overhaul.

Kudlow, 70, is a generational peer of Trump and a staple of the New York business elite to which Trump has long aspired. Kudlow has privately told associates that the president has asked him to be an energetic salesman on television — by acting as a principal, with speeches and road trips — for the Republican-authored tax law ahead of the midterm elections, as opposed to functioning as a behind-the-scenes manager, according to people who have spoken with him.

“He’s squaring up his economic policy with the right adviser for him,” Giuliani said. “Gary was really good, but I don’t know if Gary ever embraced the Trump economic ideas. He was more of a traditional Democrat or moderate Republican. Kudlow is a real cheerleader for the tax cuts in a way Gary never was, although he helped get them passed.”

Bolton, meanwhile, has told allies that he may make major changes on the National Security Council staff but has been careful not to reveal his plans until he formally takes over later this month. He has been working to appear as a team player — touting his bond with Pompeo and lunching Tuesday with McMaster — despite his reputation as a sharp-elbowed bureaucratic brawler, officials said.

Trump has been frustrated by news stories of White House tumult and has ordered aides to contest the notion that there is chaos. He also has vented frequently about the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, griping that Congress did not fully fund his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and labeling Republican congressional leaders “weak negotiators.”

Meeting with advisers Monday in the Oval Office, Trump was alerted to a new CNN poll that showed his approval rating at 42 percent nationally, up 7 percentage points since February. Trump joked that CNN, which he generally views as hostile to him, paid for a survey that pleased him, according to officials briefed on the conversation.

Another issue that has drawn Trump’s ire — although he has not engaged publicly — is Daniels, the adult-film actress who alleged having a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 and was paid $130,000 to sign a nondisclosure agreement shortly before the 2016 election. She and her attorney have not kept their silence, however, and the president has been bothered by the headlines they have generated.

The Daniels saga came up as Trump ate dinner Thursday night at Mar-a-Lago with his wife, Melania, and other family members. King — who is so controversial because of his 1967 manslaughter conviction (he was later pardoned) that he was barred from speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention — joined the president and griped about the media.

“The top story, number one, is Stormy Daniels,” King said he told Trump. “I told him it’s utterly ridiculous. I just came back from Hamburg, Germany, and they were just laughing at us.”

King said that Trump nodded in approval and told him, “It’s meaningless.”

“If he denies it happened, that’s what it is,” King said. “Who cares what he does with some lady?”

“The president,” King added, “is a guy who we call in the vernacular of the ghetto, S.K.D., something kinda different.”

Costa reported from Washington.

Trump’s talk of a Syria pullout nothing new

March 31, 2018


Smoke rises from buildings following a reported regime surface-to-surface missile strike on a rebel-held area on the southern Syrian city of Daraa on March 23, 2018. (AFP)
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s unscripted remark this week about pulling out of Syria “very soon,” while at odds with his own policy, was not a one-off: For weeks, top advisers have been fretting about an overly hasty withdrawal as the president has increasingly told them privately he wants out, US officials said.
Only two months ago, Trump’s aides thought they’d persuaded him that the US needed to keep its presence in Syria open-ended — not only because the Daesh group has yet to be entirely defeated, but also because the resulting power vacuum could be filled by other extremist groups or by Iran. Trump signed off on major speech in January in which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the new strategy and declared “it is vital for the United States to remain engaged in Syria.”
But by mid-February, Trump was telling his top aides in meetings that as soon as victory can be declared against IS, he wanted American troops out of Syria, said the officials. Alarm bells went off at the State Department and the Pentagon, where officials have been planning for a gradual, methodical shift from a military-led operation to a diplomatic mission to start rebuilding basic infrastructure like roads and sewers in the war-wracked country.
In one sign that Trump is serious about reversing course and withdrawing from Syria, the White House this week put on hold some $200 million in US funding for stabilization projects in Syria, officials said. The money, to have been spent by the State Department for infrastructure projects like power, water and roads, had been announced by outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at an aid conference last month in Kuwait.
The officials said the hold, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is not necessarily permanent and will be discussed at senior-level inter-agency meetings next week.
The officials weren’t authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity.
The State Department said it continually reviews appropriate assistance levels and how best they might be utilized. And the agency said it continues to work with the international community, members of the Coalition, and our partners on the ground to provide much needed stabilization support to vulnerable areas in Syria.
“The United States is working everyday on the ground and with the international community to help stabilize those areas liberated from ISIS (Daesh) and identify ways to move forward with reconstruction once there has been a peaceful political transition away from (Syrian President Bashar) Assad,” according to a statement from the State Department.
Trump’s first public suggestion he was itching to pull out came in a news conference with visiting Australian Prime Minister Alastair Campbell on Feb. 23, when Trump said the US was in Syria to “get rid of ISIS and go home.” On Thursday, in a domestic policy speech in Ohio, Trump went further.
“We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon — very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump said.
The public declaration caught US national security agencies off-guard and unsure whether Trump was formally announcing a new, unexpected change in policy. Inundated by inquiries from journalists and foreign officials, the Pentagon and State Department reached out to the White House’s National Security Council for clarification.
The White House’s ambiguous response, officials said: Trump’s words speak for themselves.
“The mission of the Department of Defense to defeat ISIS has not changed,” said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman.
Still, without a clear directive from the president, planning has not started for a withdrawal from Syria, officials said, and Trump has not advocated a specific timetable.
For Trump, who campaigned on an “America First” mantra, Syria is just the latest foreign arena where his impulse has been to limit the US role. Like with NATO and the United Nations, Trump has called for other governments to step up and share more of the burden so that Washington doesn’t foot the bill. His administration has been crisscrossing the globe seeking financial commitments from other countries to fund reconstruction in both Syria and Iraq, but with only limited success.
Yet it’s unclear how Trump’s impulse to pull out could be affected by recent staff shake-ups on his national security team. Tillerson and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, both advocates for keeping a US presence in Syria, were recently fired, creating questions about the longevity of the plan Tillerson announced in his Stanford University speech in January. But Trump also replaced McMaster with John Bolton, a vocal advocate for US intervention and aggressive use of the military overseas.
The abrupt change in the president’s thinking has drawn concern both inside and outside the United States.
Other nations that make up the US-led coalition fighting IS fear that Trump’s impulse to pull out hastily would allow the notoriously resourceful Daesh militants to regroup, several European diplomats said. That concern has been heightened by the fact that US-backed ground operations against remaining Daesh militants in Syria were put on hold earlier this month.
The ground operations had to be paused because Kurdish fighters who had been spearheading the campaign against Daesh shifted to a separate fight with Turkish forces, who began combat operations in the town of Afrin against Kurds who are considered by Ankara to be terrorists that threaten Turkey’s security.
“This is a serious and growing concern,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this month.
Beyond just defeating Daesh, there are other strategic US objectives that could be jeopardized by a hasty withdrawal, officials said, chiefly those related to Russia and Iran.
Israel, America’s closest Mideast ally, and other regional nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are deeply concerned about the influence of Iran and its allies, including the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, inside Syria. The US military presence in Syria has been seen as a buffer against unchecked Iranian activity, and especially against Tehran’s desire to establish a contiguous land route from Iran to the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon.
An American withdrawal would also likely cede Syria to Russia, which along with Iran has been propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and would surely fill the void left behind by the US That prospect has alarmed countries like France, which has historic ties to the Levant.
In calling for a withdrawal “very soon,” Trump may be overly optimistic in his assessment of how quickly the anti-Daesh campaign can be wrapped up, the officials said. Although the group has been driven from basically all of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and 95 percent of its former territory in Syria, the remaining five percent is becoming increasingly difficult to clear and could take many months, the officials said.

Kelly Loses White House Clout as Trump Blazes Own Path

March 29, 2018


By Jennifer Jacobs

  • Chief of staff out of loop for several key recent decisions
  • President and top aide at times now on different wavelengths
 Image result for John Kelly, Donald Trump, photos

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has lost some of his clout following recent missteps and wasn’t at President Donald Trump’s side for recent crucial decisions on staffing and policy moves, according to several senior aides.

Kelly wasn’t with the president last week when Trump abruptly decided to oust H.R. McMaster as national security adviser and replace him with John Bolton. Just two people were in the room for that decision: Trump and Bolton.

John Kelly

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

And Kelly is rarely on the line any more when Trump calls foreign leaders. Last week, when Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin days before the U.S. decided to expel dozens of Russian diplomats, Kelly wasn’t on the call.

The chief of staff’s absence at those two key moments last week highlights his struggles in managing the White House for a president who has a penchant for unpredictability and often follows his own lead when making decisions. Kelly has seen his influence slip since a staffing controversy in February marred his credibility and damaged his image as an internal disciplinarian.

Even so, Trump has shown no recent signs that he wants to fire Kelly and has gone out of his way to publicly praise his chief of staff, including during a visit this month to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego where he told the audience Kelly is “doing a great job.”

Shulkin Phone Call

The chief of staff was in the loop on Trump’s decision to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin with Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the president’s physician, an aide said. Trump and Kelly discussed the move several times, including in the Oval Office on Monday, and Kelly delivered the news to Shulkin in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, the aide said.

The picture of Kelly’s role emerges from interviews with seven White House aides and five former staffers and outside confidants. All requested anonymity to discuss internal matters. The White House communications staff declined to comment for this story.

A retired four-star Marine Corps general who served as Trump’s first Homeland Security secretary, Kelly entered the White House last July with a level of authority aides say his predecessor Reince Priebus never possessed. He moved quickly to impose order — most notably by restricting access to the Oval Office for subordinates as well as the president’s many friends, unofficial advisers and confidants.

The Porter Fallout

Those efforts paid off on the policy side, most noticeably with the administration’s victory in getting Trump’s massive tax cut legislation passed by Congress and signed into law before the end of last year.

Yet since early this year, the White House has been gripped by turmoil. In February, Staff Secretary Rob Porter was fired after allegations of domestic violence surfaced, an episode that put the White House process for issuing security clearances under public scrutiny.

Aides say Kelly mishandled Porter’s departure, first by revising a statement that praised the aide after news reports surfaced that he’d been accused of domestic violence, and then by giving reporters an inaccurate timeline of the events leading up to Porter’s dismissal.

Lately, Kelly is less aware of what’s on Trump’s mind and what he’s planning to do next, according to several aides, with one describing the men as sometimes on different wavelengths. Trump doesn’t seek his input on staffing or policy decisions as much as he used to, and Kelly is no longer as successful in blocking access to former aides Kelly has described as disruptive.

Access for Ousted

The president once again speaks occasionally by telephone with Anthony Scaramucci, the communications director Kelly fired last summer and blacklisted from the White House grounds.

Fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is also a presence in Trump’s inner circle. Trump dined with Lewandowski and four others Monday night in the residence. Kelly, who has previously said he wouldn’t allow Lewandowski on the grounds unless he personally escorted him, wasn’t there. But he was aware of the dinner and briefed on the discussion on 2018 politics, aides said.

Kelly favors communications aide Mercedes Schlapp to be the new communications director to replace Hope Hicks, whose last day is Thursday. Trump has said he prefers policy aide Kellyanne Conway for the role, aides said.

Maintains Broad Authority

Still, Kelly has broad authority and is trying to rein in mass upheaval within the staff ranks.

He is overhauling the internal policy process, aides said. At the senior staff meeting on Wednesday morning, Kelly’s newly-named deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, Chris Liddell, announced the plan, which includes new short-term and long-term structures for handling policy and reacting to news of the day, aides said.

Kelly has told the staff that whenever possible, new White House hires need to already possess the necessary national security clearance to do the job. That directive is being carried out. For example, when George David Banks had to leave his National Economic Council post after he did not get clearance because of past marijuana use, the White House brought in Wells Griffith, an Energy Department official who already has a high security clearance.

But aides say they’ve seen signs Kelly’s grip has slipped. Trump’s impromptu March 1 announcement of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum had aides wondering whether the president consults with Kelly before all major decisions since the chief of staff appeared not to have advance warning.

Information Gap

In mid-March, Kelly promised subordinates that there would be no imminent personnel changes in the White House. A week later, Trump replaced McMaster.

Some members of the staff said they no longer take Kelly at his word as they once did. However, some aides argued Kelly’s assurances that day were true in the moment — but it later became untenable for McMaster to stay on amid the whirlwind of media speculation that undercut his credibility dealing with foreign counterparts.

Trump has told confidants that the White House is the opposite of “chaos” portrayed in the media — it’s in danger of stagnation. He views replacing McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Shulkin as the best way to speed up progress on his agenda. Trump has brooded this week about inaction in Congress, arguing that the White House has too many guardrails and rules impeding his goals, an aide said.

Emboldened President

Many White House aides retain confidence in the Kelly, according to senior officials. Although he has lost some credibility with the staff, there is no sense of urgency to see him replaced, in contrast to the eventual impatience among some aides for Priebus to go.

Kelly still has some leverage with Trump, but after more than a year in office the president has grown increasingly confident in the role and making more decisions unilaterally, they said.

There are no indications Trump is seriously considering a third chief of staff, though he has mused about replacements with friends.

But he is known for snap decisions. In February, he chastised Kelly on Twitter after the chief of staff said in a television interview that the president had “evolved in the way he looks at things.” The interview followed a meeting with Congressional Democrats in which he reportedly said Trump was “uninformed” during the 2016 campaign when he promised a wall spanning the length of the Mexican border.

Trump tweeted that his plans for the wall had “never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.” Both McMaster’s and Tillerson’s departures were preceded by similar Twitter rebukes.

Kelly has told senior staff that although he doesn’t always agree with what the president wants to do, and Trump doesn’t always take Kelly’s advice, he expects to stay on the job.

— With assistance by Justin Sink, and Shannon Pettypiece

Includes video

Donald Trump’s Staff Shake-Up Leaves Jim Mattis in a Key Role — He’s “the moderate”

March 26, 2018

New national-security partners, and conflicting viewpoints, will test the defense secretary

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, at the White House last week with President Donald Trump, center, and Vice President Mike Pence.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, at the White House last week with President Donald Trump, center, and Vice President Mike Pence.PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

President Donald Trump has, to great fanfare, remade his national-security team in recent days. But the most intriguing and consequential member of that team isn’t one of the newcomers, but rather the one who has been there all along: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Mr. Mattis is the most enigmatic member of the Trump team. He’s the Iran hard-liner who defends the nuclear deal with Iran. He’s the warrior who argues for using diplomacy to address North Korea’s nuclear threat. He’s the military man who argues against allowing trade disputes to disrupt ties to key allies.

And he’s the one senior official who has learned how to disagree with Mr. Trump privately without being publicly skewered by the president for doing so.

All those positions were easier for Mr. Mattis to sustain when he was joined at the hip with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But Mr. Tillerson is gone now, and the key question is whether Mr. Mattis can continue to do his thing when paired with new Secretary of State-to-be Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, both of whom strike quite different tones on those key issues.

“I think he’s more important than ever,” says former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The question, Mr. Hagel adds, is “how long Mattis can survive in that environment.…There’s an intersection of conflict coming here, and it’s been coming.”

It’s also possible, of course, that the new team may actually fit together fine, and that the differences among Messrs. Mattis, Pompeo and Bolton may prove to be more of posturing and style than of substance. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, predicts that, because Messrs. Bolton and Pompeo are in tune with the president’s thinking and impulses, the new alignment will work well, and Mr. Mattis will fit comfortably into it. “The president has a right to succeed, and he can’t succeed if he doesn’t have a team around him that has his confidence,” Mr. Rubio says.

Still, it’s hard to be sure because of the appearance of disconnects between the president and his team on key issues. Consider: Mr. Trump has said the war in Iraq that began in 2003 was one of the biggest strategic blunders in American history. Mr. Bolton has been one of its most vocal champions. Mr. Trump has repeatedly questioned whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Pompeo, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has embraced the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia did so. Mr. Trump has scheduled a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Mr. Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, has made the case for launching a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea.

Mr. Trump likes to keep his enemies guessing, but the new alignment also could leave allies puzzled about the American bottom line.

Which makes Mr. Mattis all the more important as a stabilizing force. He has survived the crosscurrents of Trump administration intrigues through a combination of bureaucratic savvy and careful management of internal splits. Trump advisers say he has mastered the art of convincing the president he agrees with his goals while also sometimes differing with him on how to reach them. He has kept his public profile low enough that he isn’t seen as a rival to the president for attention or glory, while quietly cultivating good relations with members of both parties in Congress.

The key early test for Mr. Mattis and his new colleagues on Team Trump figures to arise on the administration’s approach to Iran. A day of reckoning arrives on May 12, when Mr. Trump has to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran that have been waived under the nuclear deal struck under President Barack Obama’s administration.

Mr. Mattis has argued that the deal is flawed but is keeping Iranian nuclear ambitions in check. Mr. Bolton has advocated tearing it up, and Mr. Pompeo was, while serving in the House, one of Congress’s most outspoken critics of the deal. They both complain it does too little to contain Iran’s missile programs or allow sufficiently robust inspections of suspect sites inside Iran, and they criticize the expiration of its provisions limiting nuclear activity.

Mr. Trump sounds as if he’s champing at the bit to ditch the deal. Yet it’s never clear with the president whether that’s a firm position or a posture designed to extract new concessions. European officials eager to save the deal are trying to figure out how to strike some kind of side arrangement with Iran to deal with the missile and inspections issues, and one ally of Mr. Bolton’s says he may embrace such a deal despite his hard-line rhetoric.

The wild cards on this issue are White House chief of staff John Kelly and presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. But the key voice may belong to Mr. Mattis.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at

See also:

Can Jim Mattis Hold the Line in Trump’s ‘War Cabinet’?


Palestinians slam Trump security advisor pick Bolton — Pakistan and Iran also likely angry…

March 23, 2018


© AFP | John Bolton addresses the United Nations Security Council on 14 October 2006, when he was United States Ambassador to the UN

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) –  A senior Palestinian official on Friday slammed US President Donald Trump’s choice of hardliner John Bolton as his new national security advisor.Trump on Thursday announced that Bolton, an arch-hawk and former United Nations ambassador, would replace army general HR McMaster.

Bolton is known for his strong support for Israel and hostility to Iran. He has previously said the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dead.

“This man has a long history of hostility to Palestinians, dating to when he was at the United Nations, where he was protecting Israeli immunity,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told AFP, referring to US vetoes of UN resolutions targeting Israel.

With Bolton’s appointment, she said, the Trump administration “has joined with extremist Zionists, fundamentalist Christians and white racists”.

“All this will lead to a devastating reality for Palestine and the region.”

In contrast, members of Israel’s government, considered the most rightwing in the country’s history, hailed the appointment.

“President Trump is continuing to appoint true friends of Israel to senior positions. John Bolton stands out among them,” said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, of the far-right Jewish Home party.



Opinion: John Bolton’s rise could be death knell for Iran deal

March 23, 2018

Even by US President Trump standards, replacing H.R. McMaster with hardliner John Bolton is risky, writes DW’s Michael Knigge. And it doesn’t bode well for key global issues such as the Iran deal.

John R. Bolton (Getty Images/D. McCollester)

H.R. McMaster, a highly decorated three-star general, lasted more than one year in Donald Trump’s revolving door White House. That is a solid record for anyone besides Trump relatives working in the president’s inner circle. His predecessor, Michael Flynn, another former military officer, lasted less than one month in Trump’s White House orbit and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian government as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller probe.

Read more: John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as Donald Trump’s national security adviser

When there’s no chemistry with the president

But as with ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who bade farewell to the State Department on Wednesday, McMaster’s personal relationship to the president — the key factor for survival in the Trump White House — had reportedly been on the rocks for months — if it ever really existed in the first place.

Michael Knigge


Michael Knigge reports for DW from Washington, DC

The serious McMaster had reportedly clashed with the unorthodox Trump not only in style but also on signature issues like dealing with Iran and Russia. McMaster argued against nixing the Iran deal and for a hard line on Russia.

Welcoming a reckless warmonger

The general’s remark at the recent Munich Security Conference that Russia had undoubtedly interfered in the US presidential election triggered a public Twitter rebuke from his boss and probably marked the beginning of the end of his tenure. He is bound to be missed by many, including US lawmakers and foreign diplomats who regarded him as trusted official and conversation partner — even though he clearly is a hawk. Like his successor, John Bolton, McMaster publicly contemplated what he called a “preventive strike” against North Korea. But unlike Bolton, he has not been viewed as reckless or a warmonger.

Read more: Can the trans-Atlantic relationship survive Donald Trump?

Those two traits describe Bolton’s reputation in a nutshell. And his reputation is well earned. Bolton was one of the most ardent and publicly outspoken supporters of President George W. Bush’s disastrous decision to invade Iraq. Bolton’s brief tenure as ambassador to the United Nations, a position he was never confirmed for by the US Senate, was marked by his openly hostile views towards the organization. Judging by a December opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “How to defund the UN,” Bolton’s positions have not changed.

On Iran, Bolton has expressed similarly bellicose views as he had on Iraq. He has repeatedly called for regime change in Iran. More importantly, in an opinion piece for The New York Times, Bolton three years ago made the case “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.” Just two months ago, he again opined in the Wall Street Journal that Trump should pull the US out of the international Iran agreement, a “diplomatic Waterloo” that “no fix can remedy.” For good measure, in the same article, he again advocated for regime change in Iran.

Still winter in Washington

The selection of Bolton as Trump’s national security advisor shortly before the president will decide whether to pull the US out the Iran nuclear agreement does not bode well for the future of a deal the Europeans and others desperately want to preserve.

Spring officially began two days ago in Washington, but after the opening salvo being launched in a trade conflict with China and the announcement of Bolton as national security adviser, it still feels like winter in the US capital.