White House ‘Enemies List’ Drove McMaster-Bannon Feud

The Daily Beast reports two of the White House’s most senior officials are locked in a power struggle–and an internal ‘enemies list’ may be to blame.


An internal White House enemies list of alleged Obama loyalists to be fired early in the Trump administration is a key contributor to a long-running feud between the National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, two senior administration officials tell The Daily Beast.

Team Trump never acted on the list, the officials said, and now those employees have finished their tenure at the National Security Council and returned to their home agencies.

But fallout over the list—and questions about loyalty to Bannon versus McMaster—led the three-star general to fire two of his top aides, an act that’s landed McMaster in the firing line of Bannon’s alt-right media allies and Russian troll bots, both calling for his ouster.

It’s the kind of personality clash and conflicting lines of authority that ret. Marine Gen. John Kelly has been brought in to quiet as chief of staff. He gave McMaster the go-ahead to remove people whose loyalty he questioned, including NSC intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick and ret. Col. Derek Harvey, the NSC Mideast director. Both had meetings with Bannon throughout their tenure, described as hushed national-security related “chats,” by one senior White House official, without seeking McMaster’s permission beforehand.

Multiple administration sources confirmed to The Daily Beast that these “chats” between Bannon and Harvey and Cohen Watnick vexed Trump’s national security adviser, and contributed to McMaster’s desire to “finally make moves against” them, as one senior official recounted.

A third more junior director, Rich Higgins, disseminated his own paper to senior U.S. officials that argued globalists and leftists were trying to undermine Trump, without showing it to anyone within the NSC first. He was fired by McMaster’s deputy Rick Waddell for presenting his work as administration policy, one administration official said. Another administration official said Higgins shared his paper only with people from the Trump campaign that he’d met in a personal capacity, and that he never got an explanation for why he was being fired. But his firing added fuel to the alt-right ire against McMaster.

Team Trump has fought back with President Donald Trump issuing a statement to defend McMaster. Multiple officials have also pointed out that McMaster kept most other Flynn hires in their posts, appointing military academic Michel Bell to replace Harvey, and elevating the NSC’s Victoria Coates to serve as key aide to Trump’s special envoy to the Mideast Jason Greenblatt.

August 7, 2017 | Comments »

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