And so it begins…
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) November 15, 2016
The Donald Trump transition, already off to slow start, bogged down further Tuesday with the abrupt resignation of former Congressman Mike Rogers, who had been coordinating its national security efforts.
Two sources close to Rogers said he had been the victim of what one called a “Stalinesque purge,” from the transition of people close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who left Friday. It was unclear which other aides close to Christie had also been forced out.
The Trump transition did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prior to entering politics, Congressman Rogers was a Special Agent in the FBI. He worked in the Chicago Field Office specializing in organized crime and public corruption.
NBC goes on to report:
Rogers was initially seen as a leading candidate for CIA director, but now is likely off the list, a source told NBC News. Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is now a top contender.
Rogers’ departure follows Christie’s demotion from head of the team to a vice-chair, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence taking over for him last week.
The purge indicates the emphasis on loyalty — and significant influence of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka — that characterized Trump’s campaign will carry over into his White House.
Multiple sources indicated that Christie was demoted because he wasn’t seen as sufficiently loyal to Trump, failing to vocally defend him at key moments on the campaign trail.
Elliot A. Cohen, a former senior advisor to Secretary of State Rice, has reversed his position of last week:
After exchange w Trump transition team, changed my recommendation: stay away. They're angry, arrogant, screaming "you LOST!" Will be ugly.
— Eliot A Cohen (@EliotACohen) November 15, 2016
Cohen’s statement above is a reversal of his thoughts last week published at The American Interest.
You asked what I thought about going to work in a Trump Administration. I do not have to worry about that, of course: I was one of the ringleaders in denouncing him as unfit by temperament, character, and judgment for political office. They will have no use for me, or, to be fair, I for them. But others, including some of my younger friends, will have jobs dangled in front of them, because the government has to be staffed.
It seems to me that if they are sure that they would say yes out of a sense of duty rather than mere careerism; if they are realistic in understanding that in this enterprise they will be the horse, not the jockey; if they accept that they will enter an administration likely to be torn by infighting and bureaucratic skullduggery, they should say yes. Yes, with two conditions, however: that they keep a signed but undated letter of resignation in their desk office (as I did when I was in government), and that they not recant a word of what they have said thus far. Public service means making accommodations, but everyone needs to understand that there is a point where crossing a line, even an arbitrary line, means, as Sir Thomas More says in A Man for All Seasons, letting go without hope of ever finding yourself again.
It goes without saying that friends in military, diplomatic, or intelligence service—the career people who keep our country strong and safe—should continue to do their jobs. If anything, having professionals serve who remember that their oath is to support and defend the Constitution—and not to truckle to an individual or his clique—will be more important than ever.
It is unclear if Cohen’s reversal applies to those currently serving – I would hope it does not, we need them to do exactly what he suggests they do in that third paragraph.
None of this – the purging as related by NBC or the vindictiveness and revanchism related by Cohen – should be surprising. It was both a hallmark of the campaign, but it is also emblematic of the President Elect’s social darwinian outlook and belief in eugenics.
In an interview for US TV channel PBS, the Republican presidential nominee’s biographer Michael D’Antonio claimed the candidate’s father, Fred Trump, had taught him that the family’s success was genetic.
He said: “The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development.
“They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”
As well as Steve Bannon’s avowed Leninism.
Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.
Shocked, I asked him what he meant.
“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.
[Norquist] talked about how to build a broad coalition. “If you want the votes of people who are good on guns, good on taxes, and good on faith issues, that is a very small intersection of voters,” he said. “But if you say, Give me the votes of anybody who agrees with you on any of these issues, that’s a much bigger section of the population.” To illustrate what he meant, Norquist drew three intersecting circles over a piece of paper. In the first one he wrote “guns,” in the second he wrote “taxes,” in the third he wrote “faith.” There was a small area where the circles intersected. “With that group, you can take over the country, starting with the airports and the radio stations,” he said. “But with all of the three circles that’s sixty percent of the population, and you can win politically.”
While I have a longer post on personalities matter, relationships matter, and personnel is policy coming later this week, the keys to continue to watch as this attempt at transition occurs are largely the positions for staffing key White House positions, many of which do not require Senatorial confirmation. We’ve already seen the Chief of Staff position go to someone with no experience except as a party functionary (largely for Governor Scott Walker) and the Chief Strategist/Senior counselor position go to an anti-Semite and white supremacist with no government service other than a ten year stint in the Navy. Reaching the rank of Officer Level 3 (O3) as a lieutenant senior grade in the Navy is not something that prepares one for elected or appointed office at the National strategic level. This has readily been apparent with several former O3s who are now serving in Congress.
So keep an eye out for the picks for National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor, as well as Spokesperson and Deputy Spokesperson, as well as the speech writers. The important Cabinet level picks to watch for are Attorney General, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Director of Homeland Security. The Directors of the FBI, CIA, and Directorate of National Intelligence all have time left on their appointments that extend past the end of the Obama Administration. The Director of the FBI serves a fixed, single ten year term – so he is very hard to replace, but the Director of Central Intelligence and the Director of National Intelligence both serve at the pleasure of the President, so they will offer, at least, pro forma resignations. It will also be important, though we likely won’t see it until late January 2017, what happens with the Service Chiefs, as well as the Director of the NSA. All of these gentlemen are four star general officers/flag officers. What is important to realize right now, however, is that the Trump transition team has not, as of yet, even responded to the requests from the Department of State and Department of Defense to begin the transition work. This may very well be because of the sentiments expressed by Cohen and others to other Republican and conservative foreign, defense, and security policy professionals to not accept appointments in the Trump Administration. I’ll have more on this in the upcoming personnel is policy post later this week.
Update at 4:40 PM EST
After considering several comments regarding the title of this post, I have appropriately renamed it. We now return you to your regular Tuesday afternoon.