The president and his allies are continuing their apparent campaign to shape the federal government into a vehicle for Donald Trump’s wishes. This Thursday, it emerged that the acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center had been fired the day before by Trump’s recently appointed acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, whose “qualifications” included that he’s a Trump loyalist and that’s pretty much it. At the Counterterrorism center, Russell E. Travers had been leading since last August after some four decades of public service — but now he’s out in the name of apparent political expedience.
Trump continues to fire intelligence professionals, this time at NCTC.
Remember, dismantling the NSC pandemics office hurt our ability to manage #COVIDー19.
We could be equally unprepared for the next crisis if Trump keeps going after professionals. https://t.co/v32QagbgCQ
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) March 19, 2020
The Washington Post reports that “insiders fear… a purge by the Trump administration of career professionals” at the center, and “Travers’s colleagues… are upset at the treatment of someone so well-regarded.” Trump and his allies have long established their penchant for carrying out those kinds of purges. Officials perceived as disloyal to Trump for whatever reason, from Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to FBI official Andrew McCabe, have been unceremoniously booted.
What Trump does while our attentions are diverted is as scary as the virus. Thank you for your excellent reporting
— Joanne Gibbs (@jeg0657) March 19, 2020
In Yovanovitch’s case, she’d been baselessly accused of harboring animosity towards Trump, while in McCabe’s case, his firing may have been based on animosity towards him and his colleagues for starting the Russia investigation. In this case, Travers “has been resistant to pressure to make personnel cuts at the center, which has been undergoing a review of its mission and effectiveness,” according to The Post, which may have underlined his firing. Travers’s acting deputy, Peter W. Hall, was fired at the same time as his now former boss, and Trump has already announced his planned nominee to fill Travers’s old post in a more permanent capacity: Pentagon special operations and counterterrorism official Christopher Miller.
The downsizing that Travers apparently wasn’t entirely onboard with has been a priority for the president and his allies across the administration. They’re the ones who completely eliminated the pandemic response unit from the National Security Council in the years prior to the Coronavirus emergence in recent weeks and months. Other examples include the pressuring out of career officials across the State Department — not just Yovanovitch.
In this case, The Post reports:
‘As the threat from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State has diminished in recent years, intelligence community officials have been debating whether the NCTC, which is the largest component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, needs to be as large as it is.’
Trump has often bungled national security and counterterrorism issues. He and his allies proclaimed that ISIS was “defeated” while the group still carried out terrorist attacks. Trump then abruptly announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Syrian region where they’d been fighting against ISIS alongside local Kurds, which provided the opening both for some reported escapes of ISIS-related prisoners and brutal attacks from the Turkish military against local Kurds.
None of these stumbles should be too surprising to those who recall that Trump did not have a single second of national security experience prior to stepping foot in the White House. Yet, we’re expected to trust him, lies and all, anyway.