The latest rumors in staff shakeups at the White House are revolving around H.R. McMaster, the National Security Adviser, with sources saying the three-star general could be out as early as next month.
McMaster, who has had a storied military career, was planning to retire last summer when he got a call from the White House asking him to replace outgoing National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn. Flynn had served in the Trump White House less than one month before resigning amid a scandal in which he would admit to discussing sanctions with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. at the time, Sergey Kislyak, before President Trump was inaugurated, and then lying to the FBI about it. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to the charges.
McMaster is widely regarded as one of the finest generals of his generation although his tenure at the White House has been rocky. McMaster chose to remain on active duty rather than retire from military service when taking the job at the White House. The move has given rise to criticism about his weighing into political issues while still on active duty.
Many considered McMaster’s stellar reputation tainted, for example, when he denied allegations on behalf of the President that Trump revealed classified information to Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting last year, only to have the President admit to doing so a day later.
There have also been public disagreements with Trump, most recently when the McMaster called evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election “incontrovertible,” during the Munich Security Conference in Germany last month.
The comment drew a quick rebuke from the President who wrote on Twitter the same day, “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!”
McMaster wrote a Ph.D. dissertation that became a best-selling book called “Dereliction of Duty” early in his career. The tome chastised the U.S. military for the Vietnam-War defeat, arguing that military leaders kowtowed to President Lyndon Johnson’s demands instead of providing their best military advice and counsel to the President, and pushing back when necessary.
He also served during the first Gulf War, earning a Silver Star as tank commander when a regiment he captained destroyed twenty-eight Iraqi Republican Guard tanks without loss in twenty-three minutes. Ret. Lt. Gen. David Barno once called McMaster the “the rarest of soldiers,” for his ability to repeatedly “buck the system and survive to join its senior ranks.”
The White House has denied that there are any personnel changes in the works. “We frequently face rumor and innuendo about senior administration officials. There are no personnel announcements at this time,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said.
Possible replacements for McMaster, should a change be announced, include Stephen Biegun, currently the vice president of international governmental affairs for the Ford Motor Company. Biegun served on the National Security Council staff from 2001 to 2003, and worked as a senior staffer for then-NSA Condoleezza Rice.