After H.R. McMaster replaced Michael Flynn as the White House National Security Advisor, McMaster had the unenviable task of forcing out some of the outlandish officials Flynn had placed on the National Security Council. That may not sound difficult, but Flynn brought some truly bizarre figures to the NSC, they had allies, and getting rid of them proved challenging.
Slowly but surely, however, McMaster made progress, and last week, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who ran the NSC's intelligence division, was ousted, following on the heels of Tera Dahl, the NSC's deputy chief of staff, and Rich Higgins, the director of strategic planning.
It's that last one that's proving to be extra interesting.
Higgins' departure was reportedly prompted by a conspiratorial memo he wrote, describing mysterious forces that were plotting against Donald Trump, including globalists, Marxists, bankers, the media, the "deep state," academicians, Islamists, and even the Republican establishment. Foreign Policy magazine published the memo yesterday, and it's hard to overstate how utterly bizarre it is -- especially for someone who served on the White House National Security Council.
Indeed, reading Higgins' memo, it's hard not to wonder how he was even let in the building.
But that's not the most salient question. For that, consider this excerpt from the Foreign Policy article:
Among those who received the memo, according to two sources, was Donald Trump Jr.Trump Jr., at that time in the glare of media scrutiny around his meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, gave the memo to his father, who gushed over it, according to sources.In a comedy of errors, Trump later learned from Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and close friend of the president, that the memo's author had been fired. Trump was "furious," the senior administration official said. "He is still furious."
Even for this White House, this story is completely bonkers.
Follow the trajectory: a member of the White House National Security Council writes an unhinged memo, alleging a wild-eyed conspiracy, and the memo reaches the president's adult son, who's supposed to be running his father's business and steering clear of politics. The son brings the memo to the president, who loves conspiracy theories, especially ones involving powerful forces that stand in his way.
The president's National Security Advisor, meanwhile, wants to bring some stability to the White House national security team, so he ousts the author of the bonkers conspiracy memo. This development comes to the attention of a strange Fox News personality, who alerts the president, who becomes "furious."
The Washington Post's James Downie gets this exactly right: as bad as the "crazy" memo is, it's Trump's reaction to it that's even worse.