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Trump Presidency

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
The Pentagon vs. the president

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.

The backlash began when protesters and journalists were violently expelled from Lafayette Park so that Trump — flanked by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley — could walk across the square to St. John's church.

  • Esper also drew criticism for urging governors to "dominate the battlespace" if protests turned violent.
The response from former military leaders was swift and harsh, particularly considering their previous reticence to wade into politically charged waters.

  • Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, wrote that Trump had "laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest" and "risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces."
  • Martin Dempsey, another former Joint Chiefs chairman, called Trump's rhetoric "extremely dangerous" and tweeted, "America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy."
  • Other former members of the military’s top brass warned of unprecedented danger to civil-military relations and to the entire “American experiment.”
  • The blow from Mattis landed most forcefully. He invoked the battle against Nazism and accused Trump of violently dispersing righteous protests “for a bizarre photo op ... with military leadership standing alongside.”
The criticism reverberated through the Pentagon, and its leaders began to draw a line.

  • Esper expressed regret over his comments to the governors, claimed he "did not know a photo op was happening" at the church and — in a direct challenge to Trump — said active-duty troops should not be sent into American cities.
  • That infuriated Trump, who has asked for names of potential replacements, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports. Sources close to Trump predict that he will sideline Esper, rather than fire him.
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany pointedly did not offer Esper any public backing on Wednesday, saying only that “should the president lose faith,” he won’t keep it a secret.
Milley, meanwhile, sent a letter to military leaders reiterating their duty to preserve and protect the Constitution, including the freedoms of speech and assembly.

  • In a handwritten addendum, he wrote: “We all committed our lives to the idea that is America — we will stay true to that oath and the American people.”
  • Army leadership released a similar letter, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy emphasized the military's duty to protect those who "peaceably assemble" in a tweet.
"It’s important for them to speak with one voice," Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary (2011–2013), tells Axios of the military's leaders.

  • "It's critical at this point that all of them join hands and take a strong position for what’s right, with the hope that that unity can send a message to the president that he ought to back off."
 
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alexd

Administrator
Staff member
I highly recommend this podcast episode. It is an absolutely excellent but depressing pod by Sam Harris. I'm not a huge fan of Sam Harris normally, but he nails the analysis of America's circumstance. He makes a point that everyone seems to be missing: communication is so fucked by social media that nobody knows what's real or not anymore. That must be decided first I guess... Check it.

 

Mondieu

TRIBE Member
I highly recommend this podcast episode. It is an absolutely excellent but depressing pod by Sam Harris. I'm not a huge fan of Sam Harris normally, but he nails the analysis of America's circumstance. He makes a point that everyone seems to be missing: communication is so fucked by social media that nobody knows what's real or not anymore. That must be decided first I guess... Check it.

Not, generally, a big fan of Sam either. ...but he nailed this one.
 

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
More fucked up autocratic wackness...

Trump's loyalty cop clashes with agency heads

President Trump, in a highly unusual new effort, has begun making significant staffing changes inside top federal agencies without the consent — and, in at least one case, without even the knowledge — of the agency head, according to officials familiar with the effort.

  • This campaign — helmed by Trump's loyalty enforcer, a 30-year-old former body man who now runs hiring for the government — is part of the systematic purging or reassigning of those deemed insufficiently supportive of Trump.
  • The effort's pace has alarmed top officials, according to 11 current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation.
Behind the scenes: Trump has empowered John McEntee, director of the Presidential Personnel Office, in a way his predecessors never were. In his short time on the job, McEntee has flexed this power, steamrolling Cabinet officials and agency heads to install his chosen candidates.

  • An extraordinary scene played out late in the morning on March 26, according to two administration officials with direct knowledge of the events, when Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, learned he would have a new head of public affairs at his agency.
  • A crucial position such as this would normally be appointed only with the agency head's support. But Wolf learned about his new public affairs chief, Alexei Woltornist, by reading the White House's public press release.
  • Wolf was furious, according to these sources. He called the White House Situation Room to try to reach McEntee to find out how this could happen without his knowledge, let alone consent. And he complained privately to colleagues about how PPO treated him.
McEntee's new team has clashed with multiple other agencies, including the Pentagon. McEntee has overruled Defense Secretary Mark Esper on a number of important appointments, which we detail in this story.

In response to this reporting, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews said in a statement: "John McEntee is an invaluable member of the White House and he's been doing an excellent job leading the critical Presidential Personnel Office which is responsible for staffing up hundreds of political jobs across the federal agencies."

Go deeper: Read the full story.
 
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