Why The Alt-Right Is Trying To Take Down One Of Trump's Top Aides

by Jon Hecht
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It seems like every day there is a new set of turmoil in the White House. After the departures of Sean Spicer and Reince Preibus (as well as the brief wondrous tenure of Anthony Scaramucci), a new Chief of Staff, former General John Kelly, was brought in to bring discipline to the White House. And H.R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor, has recently been similarly cleaning up the National Security Council (NSC), which has been in the midst of internal divisions. He's fired several staffers put in place by his predecessor Michael Flynn, and now, the alt-right media is coming after McMaster.

McMaster's battle within the NSC focused on the firing of three people previously appointed by his predecessor, Michael Flynn, who left the job after just a few weeks over revelations that he had lied to the vice president about discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

Rich Higgins, who worked in the strategic planning office, was fired for a memo he wrote and circulated through the council warning of a far-reaching conspiracy of Marxists, Islamists, and liberals to bring down Trump. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a loyalist to White House aides like Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner (who McMaster had previously tried to fire before being blocked by the president), got the boot as well. It is unclear why specifically Derek Harvey, a noted Iran hawk who had previously clashed with the National Security Advisor, was fired.

But to Trump's allies in far-right media, the quick succession of staff changes looked like a "purge" of loyalists to Trump's nationalist agenda. Sites like Breitbart and InfoWars tied it into the long-running narrative they've highlighted, of a "deep state" coup against the president, by holdovers from the Obama administration and embedded members of the national security establishment. The right-wing quickly targeted McMaster, claiming he is disloyal to America and the president.

Shortly after the firings, the Daily Caller ran a story citing "two former senior NSC officials" about McMaster's attempt to undermine the president, without identifying the relationship between these former NSC staffers and the recent firings at the NSC.

McMaster has also ended up in hot water with Trump's base for clashing with the president on Afghanistan policy. The president is rumored to be considering sending McMaster to Afghanistan and a report in Circa that McMaster had sent a letter to Obama's NSA, Susan Rice, telling her she should maintain her security clearance.

According to some with experience in the National Security establishment, this is normal policy regarding former NSAs. But with the hatred Rice still engenders over her role in the Benghazi scandal and the controversy over her unmasking Trump campaign staff as part of the Russia investigation, this has only angered the pro-Trump media.

The pro-Trump agitator Mike Cernovich started a website called McMaster Leaks aimed at highlighting all the worst things about Trump's National Security Advisor and openly seeking to have him removed from his post. The banner of the website includes a cartoon of General McMaster (as well as former General David Patraeus, Obama's former CIA director who resigned in disgrace) as puppets controlled being controlled by George Soros, himself a puppet controlled by a grisly hand that says "The Saudis" on it. In a previous iteration of the cartoon, the hand belonged to "the Rothchilds," but Cernovich changed it after accusations of anti-Semitism.

A team of researchers trying to keep track of social media accounts linked to Russian propaganda efforts found that the accounts have backed the campaign against McMaster. On August 3, Twitter accounts linked to Russian social media interference began pushing the #FireMcMaster hashtag.

Trump, however, may have put that to rest for now. He said in a statement on Friday, “General McMaster and I are working very well together. He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.” It looks like McMaster has weathered the storm, at least for now.