It’s no secret that the White House has had their share of problems when it comes to intelligence leaks in the first 200 days of the Trump administration. While some say that the so-called “deep state” is a myth, President Trump isn’t taking any chances.
He has pushed back, most recently, by installing retired General John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff, in an effort to bring order and discipline to the West Wing. Kelly is one of a handful of retired Generals appointed to key positions in the Trump administration.
Since the intelligence leaks first came to light earlier this year, the Trump administration has been on the offensive, blaming everyone from the news media to the so-called deep state (a shadow government working behind the scenes to undermine the administration for the leaks coming out of the White House).
On May 28, Trump tweeted:
And though not specifically using the exact label, the notion of a “deep state” has certainly taken hold in the Trump White House.
On several occasions, claims of tapped phones and administrative infiltrators have been made, with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at one point referring to “people that burrowed into government” to try and undermine the administration.
To some, the idea of a shadow government sounds paranoid and desperate. However, Trump confidant, Newt Gingrich asserts it’s anything but.
“Of course, the deep state exists. There’s a permanent state of massive bureaucracies that do whatever they want and set up deliberate leaks to attack the president,” said Gingrich, in an interview with the Associated Press. “This is what the deep state does: They create a lie, spread a lie, fail to check the lie and then deny that they were behind the lie.”
Whether people believe in the deep state or not, it is clear that the intelligence leaks are undermining national security interests, at one point causing the British government to say they would no longer share intelligence with the U.S. government.
President Trump is hoping that military discipline might be the answer. The British government later reversed its position with assurances that the administration would crack down on the leaks.
“This was not a whistleblower exposing government misconduct,” Ron Hosko, a former assistant FBI director for the bureau’s Criminal Investigative Division, told The Daily Signal in reference to the British Intelligence leaks.
He added, “This is a bureaucrat saying to a reporter, ‘Look at me, look what I know,’ maybe hoping the reporter will make him look good later on … There was no positive purpose for this leak.”
Since taking office, President Trump has made a number of moves contrary to the Obama administration and has placed a great deal of trust in the military and its former leaders, moves that signal his desire for greater discipline among his administration.
He has appointed retired general James “Mad Dog” Mattis as Secretary of Defense and given him much more autonomy over military operations than the Defense department had under the Obama administration, which insisted on a micromanaged approach to military operations.
In February, when Michael Flynn was forced to resign after it was brought to light that he had lied about his dealings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak (itself a potential source of intelligence leaks though this has not been confirmed) President Trump asked General H.R. McMaster to replace him.
Because General McMaster intended to remain on active duty while serving as National Security Advisor, he had to be confirmed by the Senate. Typically the position of National Security Advisor does not require Senate confirmation.
Most recently, he tapped retired General John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff, easily the most powerful position in the White House. Trump realizes he needs a no-nonsense general to instill discipline in a White House embroiled in an internal civil war, with multiple sides battling for power.
“The president's White House staff problem will only be solved by bringing in a mega-heavyweight to his staff, someone along the lines of former Reagan chief of staff James Baker,” said Brent Budowsky, a columnist with The Hill.
“What Trump needs, above all else, is someone with the stature and security to walk into the Oval Office, close the door and tell the president what he needs to hear,” Budowsky said.
At a time when Americans have little trust in their government, most do still trust the military, a fact that the Trump administration may be hoping to capitalize on. And many think that Kelly is the mega-heavyweight that the White House needs.
“The kind of discipline that he is going to bring is important,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, said on CNN after the president’s announcement.
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