Deputy National Security Adviser Rick Waddell, Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Gulf States Joel Rayburn, and Yll Bajraktari, a former special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense during the Obama administration, have been coordinating an extensive public relations campaign in support of embattled National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, according to multiple sources.
Members of the national security community who spoke with PJ Media describe the talking points used during this effort to defend McMaster’s tenure as NSA as “absurd,” “dishonest,” and “comically inaccurate.” But sources primarily expressed anger regarding insinuations that NSC members fired by McMaster or otherwise no longer in their positions — such as K.T. McFarland, Rich Higgins, Adam Lovinger, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and Derek Harvey — are gone for reasons other than ideology.
Over the past week, several media accounts have painted them as “conspiratorial” members of the “alt-right,” possibly leaking information to the controversial Mike Cernovich, and possibly working in tandem with Russian social media accounts. Such claims, which have been picked up by several outlets, are reportedly doing lasting damage to reputations and careers.
Further, multiple sources believe McMaster and his allies within the administration are using such “career-ending” “swamp” tactics with the knowledge that the fired members and supportive colleagues — due to the nature of their careers within the national security realm — do not necessarily have the option of defending themselves in the public sphere.
This outreach reportedly coordinated by Waddell, Rayburn, and Bajraktari appeared to intensify on August 3, one day following Circa News investigative reporter Sara Carter’s publication of an article titled “A Letter From H.R. McMaster Said Susan Rice Will Keep Her Top-Secret Security Clearance.” That evening, the Heritage Foundation published a short defense of McMaster titled “5 Reasons H.R. McMaster Is the Right Leader for a Tough President.”
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank that has perhaps unanimously stood against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, appears an unusual outlet to offer a full-throated support of McMaster. Much of the controversy around McMaster’s personnel decisions has centered on the former NSC members being stout defenders of President Trump’s JCPOA stance, and on McMaster’s hiring of former Obama administration figures and others who have been ardent supporters of the deal. (Indeed, one is hard-pressed to identify a member of the NSC brought in by McMaster with a history of aligning with President Trump on Iran or with his Mideast policy in general, most notably marked by his willingness to treat Islamic doctrine as the root cause of terror and related Mideast strife.)
However, sources claim the last week of public relations outreach did in fact heavily target conservative organizations that, while generally opposed to the JCPOA, may be willing to choose their distaste of Trump over McMaster’s actions that appear to spell out a more supportive stance on the deal.
Indeed, allies of McMaster reportedly reached out to Heritage, the Hudson Institute, and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, perhaps among other right-leaning think-tanks. Sources say at least one of the above organizations had scheduled a private meeting with McMaster himself.
In short, McMaster appears to be banking on “NeverTrump” currents allowing him to retain his position … in President Trump’s administration. Meanwhile, accomplished national security careerists whom McMaster has fired, all of them loyal to Trump’s campaign stance on the JCPOA, are watching their reputations destroyed as “conspiratorial,” as “alt-right,” or as leakers — and with no means of rebuttal. Welcome to the swamp.
Newly installed Chief of Staff General Kelly is now restricting access to Trump, just as Waddell, Rayburn, and Bajraktari reportedly lead a media defense of McMaster. Sources believe the situation will not continue for long, however, as McMaster’s detractors are trying to reach the president. Whether further information will, or already has, reached Trump’s desk regarding McMaster looks to be the next development. Stay tuned.