Trump Administration names General H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor — but can he restore stability in National Security Council?

Developments on Day 32 of the Trump Administration:

McMaster Named National Security Advisor

Trying to ease the turmoil over its organization for foreign policy, the Trump Administration names Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor.

McMaster replaces Michael Flynn, who was dismissed last week after only 25 days in the post. Flynn’s five conversations on December 29 with the Russian Ambassador to the US — the day that President Obama imposed new sanctions on Moscow over its interference in the 2016 Presidential election — has raised questions not only about his personal conduct but also about links between Donald Trump, his advisors, and Russia.

There has been further unrest with the apparent efforts of Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon to supersede the National Security Council, putting his allies on the staff and getting himself named as a member of the NSC’s Principals Committee. Trump’s initial choice to replace Flynn, retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward, reportedly turned down the post when he could not get assurances of direct access to the President and the authority to choose his own staff.

McMaster, the head of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, served several tours of duty in Germany, Southwest Asia, and Iraq, including service as special assistant to General David Petraeus during the 2007 US “surge” in Iraq.

Holding a Ph.D. in military history from the University of North Carolina, McMaster is highly respected by military and national security officials for his record and his ability to present ideas, including in his book Dereliction of Duty on the US and the Vietnam War.

Senior Republican Congressmen quickly hailed the selection. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said McMaster was “a fine addition” with his “history of questioning the status quo and infusing fresh thinking and new approaches into military affairs”. John McCain, the Armed Services Committee chairman, called McMaster “an outstanding choice”.

However, questions remain over whether McMaster will get the autonomy to restore the NSC as a body outside political control of an advisor like Bannon.

Pence Meets Sceptical Europeans

Vice President Mike Pence meets European Union officials, concerned about Donald Trump’s remarks about US relations with Europe, NATO, and Russia.

Pence vowed again to stand with the EU and NATO, but was met by the worries of EU Council President Donald Tusk after “open and frank talks”:

I heard words which are promising for the future, words which explain a lot about the new approach in Washington.

Too many new and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations — and our common security — for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be….

Both Europeans and Americans must simply practice what they preach.

Tusk said Europe is counting on the United States’ “wholehearted and unequivocal” support.

Pence had spoken at the Munich Security Conference last weekend of the US commitment to NATO, but European observers noted the absence of any reference to the EU.

He said on Monday that Trump had asked him “to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union”.

After talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Pence reiterated support for the alliance while warning that Trump wants to see “real progress” by Europeans in boosting defense spending.

Asked what the administration would do if allies failed to meet the defense spending target of 2% of GDP, Pence said, “I don’t know what the answer is to ‘or else,’ but I know that the patience of the American people will not endure forever.”

Former Trump Campaign Manager: No Evidence of Voter Fraud in New Hampshire

Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, rejects the claims of the President and his White House advisors of widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire in the 2016 election.

A New Hampshire resident, Lewandowski said, “I live on the border. I didn’t see buses coming across the line to say that, hey, we’ve moved up from Massachusetts.”

Trump, who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, has repeatedly maintained — without presenting any evidence — that 3 million to 5 million votes were cast illegally.

Earlier this month, in a closed-door meeting with a group of US Senators that both he and former GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte would have won in New Hampshire, but “thousands” of people were “brought on buses” from Massachusetts and illegally cast ballots.

Trump said last month that he would ask for an investigation, led by Vice President Mike Pence, into voter fraud.