Across the federal government, officials have been forced to take drastic steps to address the sprawling executive overreach from the Trump team. According to sources speaking to Newsweek, General Robert Neller — the leader of the Marine Corps — specifically allowed memorandums to be leaked from the Defense Department that chronicled funding concerns facing his branch of the military in the face of the Trump team’s continued efforts to redirect military resources towards the nonexistent security crisis at the southern border.
Besides having previously deployed large numbers of troops to face off with asylum seekers, the Trump team has sought to repurpose $1 billion and counting in Defense Department money for the construction of the president’s long sought southern border wall. Meanwhile, Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina are still awaiting money for repairs addressing damage left months ago by Hurricane Florence, and elsewhere, the Marines have had to scale back a number of training exercises, like the Integrated Training Exercise, a “large-scale, combined-arms” exercise that had been set for the Mojave Desert in southern California.
Neller summarized bluntly, in the documents that were originally meant for acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Navy Secretary Richard Spencer:
‘The combat readiness of II Marine Expeditionary Force — 1/3 the combat power of the Marine Corps — is degraded and will continue to degrade given current conditions.’
The communications from Neller chronicling these concerns note the president’s southwest border operation as one of the “unplanned/unbudgeted” items drawing back the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to address their acute needs. Marines spokesperson Colonel Riccoh Player did not specifically deny that Neller allowed the documents to be leaked, instead simply noting that the material “was private” and that staff can not “prevent people from leaking documents.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford’s best defense when pressed by Congress over the General’s original concern was that Neller had also noted other unplanned line items in his accounting of the current dismal financial state of the Marine Corps, although you’d hope that U.S. military policy would be driven by something other than fingerpointing.
Plenty of concern, including from senior military officials, has already emerged over the administration’s border action independent of the financial considerations. They deployed troops to the border less than a week before last year’s midterm elections, and nowhere in the time before or since has there been an indication of a special security threat posed by the immigrants meant to be confronted. They’re fleeing violence, not perpetrating it.
Repeatedly throughout the Trump administration, current and former officials have sought to use leaks to their advantage against the team’s belligerence. POLITICO shared earlier this year that career security officials on the National Security Council had taken extra steps to let others in government in on their operations when politically appointed superiors tamped them down, admitting the effort included hope that looped in individuals might leak the troubling information out.
Infamously, former FBI Director James Comey leaked personal memos chronicling troubling conversations he had with the president in an effort at increased oversight of the Russia investigation, which culminated in the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Then and now, the president and his allies have raged against leaks, but they’re not stopping.
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