Mike Morell on Trump Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

Michael Morell, fmr. deputy director of the CIA, discusses President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

 I look at this from a national security perspective:
  1. The climate will be worse than it would have been
    1. Preservation of the nation
      1. nuclear war with Russia
      2. naturally occurring biological agent
      3. climate change is that serious over the long term
    2. Specific national security implications
      1. water shortages: conflicts over water.
      2. instability caused by growing deserts
      3. food scarcity
    3. US leadership: worse than not enforcing red line in Syria
      1. This undermine allies’s faith in US: Angela Merkel sees greater prospects with China than US
      2. Thought US did well to reassure Middle East Allies in Middle East (vis-a-vis Iran)
      3. Failure to reassure Europe over Article 5.  They feel like America doesn’t have their back
      4. George Shultz: the US helped to forge
        1. Say what you mean: have clearly articulated policty
        2. Do what you say: draw red line, if you forge treaty, don’t abandon it
      5. I’ve been an analyst of other countries.  Now I’m an analyst of my own country:
        1. Nationalists: Bannon, etc: very narrowly focused
        2. Globalists: McMaster, Mattis, Pompeo, Tillperson, Dan Coats, Gary Cohn: traditional Republican foreign policy
        3. Jared Kushner: not ideological, not long-term interests of US, looking out for Reputation of Family: Barak Obama of Administration
        4. President Trump: view was framed on campaign trail, what resonated with people: if there is a threat to US, we will crush it.  Otherwise we will withdraw.

Middle East

Is it wise to make Iran an enemy?  Yes, Iran is a threat to strategic interests

  1. They conduct terror through Kuds force conducts terrorism against Jews, and neighbors
  2. Support terror
  3. Support Shia insurgent groups to overthrow Sunni regimes
  4. It is policy to destroy Israel
  5. It is policy to dominate region
  6. We need to push back agains bad behavior, but give them an out if they want to change.
  7. We need to reassure the allies
  8. We need to talk to our allies about democracy privately
  9. John Kerry says if we do more sanctions, they walk
    1. then that is them walking away from the table
    2. we should leave the door open to them
    3. they have to pay a price for their bad behavior, and I think that happens through sanctions

What is the significance of the James Comey firing and testimony

  1. Did any Trump associates conspire with Russians, help choose material, timing for maximal impacy
  2. Did Russian organized crime help launder money.  Donald Jr. said that money was flowing in from Russia.  Did they do due diligence to know where the money was coming from?
  3. Is there anyone in the Trump administration, particularly with classified info, with inappropriate relationship with Russian Intelligence
  4. Did the president obstruct justice by
    1. asking for loyalty
    2. asking to let Flynn issue go
    3. firing Comey
  5. Jared Kushner meeting with ambassador, asking for backchannel
    1. facts in public domain may not be accurate
      1. Russians talking to each other about meeting
      2. Officials leaking to reporters
      3. Reporters reporting on this: this is not a great chain of evidence
    2. This isn’t just about Kushner, Michael Flynn was there and would have known better than to ask for secure communications
    3. Its less the desire to set up a channel, supposedly to talk to Russian military about Syria.  Why the secrecy?  Maybe they were worried about leaks.
    4. Was this Flynn and Kushner’s acting on their own, or did Trump, Pence have permission?
    5. I’m more interested in what they were doing before the election than after.
    6. The facts as we know them do not indicate that there was something criminal.
    7. Hillary asked about whether anyone in the Trump camp helped weaponize stolen data and what fake news to promote.

Middle East: Syria: we’re entering a new phase

All of our focus is on the defeat of ISIS, but there is a growing risk of conflict between:  US-Iran and US-Russia

Civil War:

  1. Assad-Opposition: as they are winning, they are getting closer to US allies
  2. US & Allies – ISIS:
    1. US: struck Syrian government forces
    2. Russia struck US allies getting closer to their base

Who in the White House Will Turn Against Donald Trump?

this concocted dumb show of loyalty only served to suggest how unsustainable it all is.

.. The reason that this White House staff is so leaky, so prepared to express private anxiety and contempt, even while parading obeisance for the cameras, is that the President himself has so far been incapable of garnering its discretion or respect. Trump has made it plain that he is capable of turning his confused fury against anyone in his circle at any time.

.. blamed the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, for the legal imbroglio that Trump himself has created.

.. The President has fired a few aides, he has made known his disdain and disappointment at many others, and he will, undoubtedly, turn against more.

Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Sean Spicer–––who has not yet felt the lash?

.. Trump’s egotism, his demand for one-way loyalty, and his incapacity to assume responsibility for his own untruths and mistakes were, his biographers make plain, his pattern in business and have proved to be his pattern as President.

.. Veteran Washington reporters tell me that they have never experienced this kind of anxiety, regret, and sense of imminent personal doom among White House staffers

.. by retailing information anonymously they will be able to live with themselves after serving a President who has proved so disconnected from the truth and reality.

.. Pat, who on vacations resided separately from the President.

.. making sure that Henry Kissinger was no longer seated at state dinners next to the most attractive woman at the occasion.

.. Nixon, who barely acknowledged, much less touched, his own wife in public, resented Kissinger’s public, and well-cultivated, image as a Washington sex symbol.

.. Incident after incident revealed Nixon’s distaste for his fellow human beings, his racism and anti-Semitism, his overpowering personal suspicions, and his sad longings. Nixon, the most anti-social of men

.. It was all for the sake of “history,” Nixon said.

.. Kennedy and Johnson had taped selectively, but Nixon wanted it all for the record––his own records––but no one was to know.

.. there is little evidence that the show of bogus loyalty performed last week has any basis in real life.

.. Will Bannon, Spicer, Conway, Sessions, Kushner, and many others who have been battered in one way or another by Trump, keep their counsel? Will all of them risk their futures to protect someone whose focus is on himself alone and the rest be damned? Will none of them conclude that they are working for a President whose honesty is on a par with his loyalty to others?

A Turning Point for Trumpinology

A headline in Politico Monday read: “ Trump national security team blindsided by NATO speech.” If this report is correct, President Trump left his top team—national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson —in the dark regarding his May 25 speech at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels. All three officials, Politico reports, believed the president’s address would explicitly affirm his commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all. Only when Mr. Trump began speaking did they realize he had removed the crucial sentence, reportedly with encouragement from chief strategist Steve Bannon.

.. The president withheld information from his top advisers and then forced them to offer “awkward, unconvincing, after-the-fact claims that the speech really did amount to a commitment they knew it did not make.”

.. veteran national-security scholars and officials who regard this as a turning point in their assessment of the administration. Until now they believed Mr. Trump’s experienced advisers would be able to run American foreign policy along more or less conventional postwar lines

.. They no longer believe this. Instead, they say, his modus operandi will be transactional.

.. a highly placed Asian official who said Washington “is now the epicenter of instability in the world.”

.. Lt. Gen. McMaster and Gary Cohn, the head of the National Economic Council, teamed up to publish a startling defense of Mr. Trump’s crockery-breaking European tour. The key doctrinal sentence runs: “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”

.. Lest the reader conclude that the authors regard this as a disagreeable reality, they declare: “Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.” Hooray for the war of all against all!

.. There is a lot of daylight between Hobbes and Kant. Anarchy is not the only alternative to World Federalism.

.. Lt. Gen. McMaster and Mr. Cohn continue, “we delivered a clear message to our friends and partners: Where our interests align, we are open to working together.” The implication is that where they do not, we aren’t.

.. What about doing the right thing for its own sake, as President George W. Bush did when he placed America’s moral authority and material resources behind the global struggle against AIDS?

.. President Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall had learned the answer to these questions from Franklin Roosevelt : In the long run, the U.S. will not survive as an island of democracy in a sea of autocracy.

.. By contrast, Mr. Trump embraces self-interest wrongly understood, and his enablers, who surely know better, are helping him peddle this poison as medicine.

.. Yes, NATO partners should contribute more to the common defense. But even if they paid nothing, a free and democratic Europe would still serve the interests of the U.S.

Can Trump Really Be Fed Up with Sessions after Just Four Months?

Remember that huge confirmation fight over Sessions? That was four months ago! What’s the point of going through all that trouble if Trump is going to get into a fight with his attorney general and want to get rid of him by June? Yesterday, I mentioned that there are only three people nominated by Trump working in the Department of Justice. Do you think Trump will be better off with only two? And if Trump has this much friction with Sessions, one of his earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, who’s out there who he’s going to work with better?

If Trump did ditch Sessions, how long would it take for him to find a replacement?

Remember at the end of May, when communications director Mike Dubke resigned? Sean Spicer is filling that job and the press secretary job… but of course, we’ve heard a lot of rumors that Trump has contemplated firing Spicer, too.

Remember all the reports back in April that Trump was considering getting rid of both Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon?

There’s one argument of management that says you shouldn’t get rid of someone until you have a good plan to replace them or at least have someone else who can temporarily handle their duties.

Michael Dubke, the White House communications director, said he would step down, but four possible successors contacted by the White House declined to be considered, according to an associate of Mr. Trump who like others asked not to be identified discussing internal matters [my emphasis].

Is it any wonder this White House is having a hard time attracting people?

We discussed how Trump tweets out messages that directly contradict the arguments of his lawyers. He gave Spicer an hour’s warning about the decision to fire Comey. He didn’t even fire Comey face-to-face. And it’s Trump who apparently fumes that his staff is “incompetent.”