Patterico's Pontifications

11/12/2020

Why Is Trump Firing Top Civilian Officials at the Pentagon?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



Why is Trump firing top Pentagon officials? The Resistance thinks it’s the first step in a slow-motion coup, but the guys at the National Security Law Podcast say that’s unlikely because Trump is firing only civilian officials, not military officials. They point to a David Ignatius column that could explain it, however. Trump wants to declassify information that would put sources at risk, but might arguably burnish his contentions about Russian election interference:

President Trump’s senior military and intelligence officials have been warning him strongly against declassifying information about Russia that his advisers say would compromise sensitive collection methods and anger key allies.

An intense battle over this issue has raged within the administration in the days before and after the Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump and his allies want the information public because they believe it would rebut claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Trump in 2016. That may sound like ancient history, but for Trump it remains ground zero — the moment when his political problems began.

Even Bill Barr agrees that the declassification would endanger sources, but the folks being installed feel differently.

The issue may have played a role in Trump’s surprise decision on Monday to fire Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. According to the senior defense official, Esper wrote a letter last month to John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, strongly endorsing Nakasone’s position and “urging that the information not be released due to the harm it would do to national security, including specific harm to the military,” the senior defense official said.

. . . .

At the NSA, the Trump team just installed as general counsel Michael Ellis, a former chief counsel to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a locus of pro-Trump arguments that the Russia investigation was poisoned fruit. As the spy agency’s chief legal officer, Ellis could be an ally in a Ratcliffe-led campaign to declassify intelligence that would otherwise be tightly held because it might reveal sources and methods.

In a battle between what is good for the country and what Trump thinks is good for Trump, which do you think wins?

Exactly.

Speaking of Trump and his supporters putting Trump’s interests ahead that of the country, most Republicans are still going along with the charade that the pending recounts and frivolous lawsuits might change the election result. Even the one lawsuit that I think may have merit — the one challenging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to allow ballots to be counted after Election Day when the Legislature did not authorize it — will not swing that state. But folks are still pretending. The candidates in the Georgia Senate runoff have bowed to Trump’s demands that they call for the resignation of the state’s Republican Secretary of State, for no reason other than failing to do so would get them a nasty tweet from Trump.

And in my favorite news to date, the Senate majority leader in Pennsylvania, Jake Corman, is softening on the issue of upending his state’s vote and simply calling the election for Trump. He and the majority leader of the state House of Representatives assured voters on October 19: “We have said it many times and we will happily say it again: The Pennsylvania General Assembly does not have and will not have a hand in choosing the state’s presidential electors or in deciding the outcome of the presidential election.”

But on November 6, he hedged:

When asked Friday to confirm if the state legislature will award the state electors to the party that wins the popular vote, Corman said he does not like “to get into hypotheticals” but outlined his understanding of the election code.

“We will follow the law,” Corman said. “That’s all we’ve asked for in this process all along.”

“Under normal circumstances,” the legislature plays no role in selecting electors, he said.

To do that would be a coup. The fact that people are even worried about this is astounding. But I think that’s Trump’s game plan. Throw enough dust in the air to make it sound like there’s fraud everywhere, and get local hacks to disregard the election results.

Good for Trump, very very very bad for the country. Which wins?

47 Responses to “Why Is Trump Firing Top Civilian Officials at the Pentagon?”

  1. This is easy to explain. The Republicans have been playing a game; (1) Find the line, (2) Step over it, (3) if the pushback is survivable, repeat.

    The Orange Faction has accelerated this, and is now their interests are less aligned with the rest of the Republican party as a whole, although not for some individuals. (Oh, and it super dangerous for the country, but that’s been a Republican afterthought for the at least the last 4 years, and those acting surprised are disengaged or disingenuous.)

    john (cd2753)

  2. I think he made these personnel decisions out of pure spite. They’re all short-timers anyway. If they try some major decisions, they’ll get roundly criticized for being Trump’s stooges and will forever have the Trump Taint on them.

    Paul Montagu (77c694)

  3. If they try some major decisions, they’ll get roundly criticized for being Trump’s stooges and will forever have the Trump Taint on them.

    Meaning they’re shoo-ins if they run for elective office in any red state except maybe Utah?

    Dave (1bb933)

  4. Trump’s purposes have always been nefarious. The salvation has been his almost completely incompetence in finding people who both can and will carry them out. His loyalists turn out to be too incompetent and the competent turn out to be too law-abiding, so the turnover keeps turning over and over and over.

    nk (1d9030)

  5. And then there’s the occasional sailor who just strikes his fancy but they keep it discreet and the breakup amiable, and in this day and age ….

    nk (1d9030)

  6. What I read is that “burrowing in” by putting loyalists in civil service jobs on the way out is a standard bureaucratic manuever.

    As I understand it, unlike political appointees, career civil servants can’t be fired by the new administration, except for cause; it can only move them to different jobs somewhere else.

    Military appointments on the other hand are entirely up to the CiC, so it wouldn’t accomplish much to fire uniformed officials.

    Dave (1bb933)

  7. Dave @6. Yes, I remember Sally Yates and that her only legally qualified replacement was Rod Rosenstein.

    nk (1d9030)

  8. To answer the question in the title, he only fires the best people.

    Paul Montagu (77c694)

  9. Another speculation I’ve seen is that Trump is aiming to hide evidence that would embarrass or even incriminate him.

    Some purpose related to public image seems much more likely than a coup attempt. I don’t think he’s all that interested in hanging on to presidential power now that he has seen the burden of responsibility to handle unforeseen challenges. I don’t discount pure spite as a motive, but this might be a twofer.

    Same with continuing to contest the election results. I’ve seen statements from (unnamed) people close to the administration saying it’s more about sustaining the belief among his fans that he’s the real winner than it is about actually retaining the presidency.

    Radegunda (7988d9)

  10. Trump will never concede. He is psychologically incapable of admitting defeat. He will not exit stage left or right.

    Now, he’s planning his own TV channel to take down Fox News, because they committed the ultimate crime or act of disloyalty by calling Arizona for Biden. (And they were right.)

    https://hotair.com/archives/allahpundit/2020/11/12/report-trump-planning-wreck-fox-news-starting-new-digital-media-outlet/

    This guy just won’t go away, even after he’s been booed off the stage. Oh, and do you know where the donations to his leadership PAC are going?

    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/12/trump-fraud-claims-fundraising-436188

    Anyone who donates to this PAC is a fool. The money isn’t going to fund recounts. The RNC already has money for that, as does the DNC. And it’s all futile. Recounts may change a couple of hundred votes, but that means nothing when the lead is in the thousands, tens of thousands.

    Biden won. The states will report their final tallies by or on Dec. 8. Electors will be appointed and the Electoral College will convene on Dec. 14 and vote. The Congress will certify those votes on Jan. 6. The president will be sworn in on Jan. 20. This is going to happen.

    So all Trump has left is to set up a grievance channel on internet TV? It’s pathetic.

    These Republicans, these members of the Gratuitously Obsequies Party, are pitiful. They’re not deplorables; they’re discreditable.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  11. He is psychologically incapable of admitting defeat.

    It really is all about ego in the end. It’s the posture of being the most brilliant, infallible, omnicompitent human who has ever walked the earth. That has always been far more important to Trump than any policies that grew from his “I (we) win / you lose” philosophy of life.

    Radegunda (7988d9)

  12. Who wins?

    America.

    We deserve what we get.

    whembly (c30c83)

  13. @12 — Trashing old alliances is not a winning formula in the long run.
    Nor is a presidency run by someone who will always put his personal interest ahead of anyone else’s, including America’s.

    Radegunda (7988d9)

  14. Trump’s “I win / you lose” philosophy makes it difficult for him to see the possibility that mutual benefit might actually be better for us in the big picture.

    Radegunda (7988d9)

  15. It’s pretty sad when people endorse the idea that everyone else should lose while America “wins.”

    Radegunda (7988d9)

  16. Gawain’s Ghost, i’m reasonably certain Trump is going to spend the next four years sniping from the sidelines, loudly insisting that the election was stolen and that he would do better than Biden, jumping on every mistake Biden makes as demonstration that Trump was the right choice, and setting himself up to run again in 2024 and be vindicated by a victory then.

    The behavior of the Republicans in the legislature in the last two weeks suggests they will back him in it, and might very likely refuse to work with Biden in order to make Trump’s comeback more successful.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  17. @13 But enough talking about Biden.

    😉

    whembly (c30c83)

  18. So all Trump has left is to set up a grievance channel on internet TV? It’s pathetic.

    These Republicans, these members of the Gratuitously Obsequies Party, are pitiful. They’re not deplorables; they’re discreditable.

    Gawain’s Ghost (b25cd1) — 11/12/2020 @ 10:32 am

    Why can’t the GOP see, why couldn’t they always see, that Trump was going to burn them? Fox News gave Trump hundreds of millions worth of free airtime they didn’t give his GOP competitors, and they knew that was Trump’s main advantage. Now, Fox News gets its reward.

    I agree with Aphrael, there are even more problems the GOP will bring just for some little advantage to Trump, but at the end of the day, history is being written.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  19. > Why can’t the GOP see, why couldn’t they always see, that Trump was going to burn them?

    because he’s an incredibly successful con artist and they bought the con.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  20. Why can’t the GOP see, why couldn’t they always see, that Trump was going to burn them?

    It’s really not about that. The GOP (and the Democrats to a lesser extent) have a problem: a lot of voters feel out of touch with them. So they voted for Trump. Traditional GOP politicians were trapped between a rock and a hard place. Some chose Trump, even though they knew he’d burn them in the end. None of the GOP Establishment wanted Trump – they knew what he was, but it was a gambit they felt they had to make.

    We’d be talking about Democrats if Bernie Sanders had won.

    Hoi Polloi (7cefeb)

  21. Information is power; sunshine the best disinfectant.

    Post Helsinki, who gives a damn.

    “Declassify.”

    I’ll start. In a scene right out of the film, ‘Network,’ my own father hosted a meeting at Bechtel House in London w/senior U.S. oil execs.,- at the behest and suggestion of the U.S. gov’t., [so as not t meet on U.S. soil] to discuss knocking off Libya’s Gaddaffi for nationalizing oil fields back in ’69. Make a decision and gov’t ‘assets’ would be provided. Muammar had no idea the head of Standard Oil saved his life.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  22. None of the GOP Establishment wanted Trump – they knew what he was, but it was a gambit they felt they had to make.

    there’s a lot of truth to that, though I think they wanted Trump because (they figured) that would result in Hillary winning in 2016, which was better for the establishment than Ted Cruz.

    The rock and hard place represent a candidate that will cost the party power down the road, or doing what they always pretended to want on policy. That’s why voters don’t trust them. Since Ross Perot, how many times has the GOP actually gotten stuff done on budget reform, immigration, a host of other issues? The government has grown and grown, even if the GOP has all the power.

    ‘But democrats’ has been their strategy for screwing republican voters, sadly.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  23. When asked Friday to confirm if the state legislature will award the state electors to the party that wins the popular vote, Corman said he does not like “to get into hypotheticals” but outlined his understanding of the election code.

    “We will follow the law,” Corman said. “That’s all we’ve asked for in this process all along.”

    “Under normal circumstances,” the legislature plays no role in selecting electors, he said.

    We govern by the will of the people. Corman is seeing that there might be a large enough constituency for that that he needs to be respectful of the idea. If Trump keeps this going…who knows? It’s clear that conservative no longer means “supports rule of law.”

    Time123 (441f53)

  24. We’d be talking about Democrats if Bernie Sanders had won.

    The GOP Establishment would have had to settle on Cruz or Kasich to block. And many hated one or the other enough enough not to do it.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  25. @13. Trashing old alliances is not a winning formula in the long run.

    Yeah, we shudda stayed allied w/Stalin. 😉

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  26. @22. In spite of what talk radio and the lucrative echo chamber of r/w media keeps blaring to a festering minority, it’s not a conservative party.

    “This is called the Republican Party, it’s not called the Conservative Party.” – Trump, 5/9/16

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  27. While legislatures have the constitutional power to pick electors themselves, that power was transferred by statute to the voters of the state (now the people generally) in every state by the end of the Civil War. PA’s legislature gave it up before the 1824 election.

    Having given away that power to the People, and having left it there for 200 years, the PA legislature’s power to reclaim it is subject to some dispute.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  28. Were Trump to “win” the Electoral vote by means of legislative coup, his presidency wouldn’t be worth a barrel of warm s*it. He and Pence* would be removed from office is a few weeks, either by impeachment or quicker means.


    * I’d like to think Pence would demur on taking the oath.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  29. Georgia is the gift to the junkies. The course for the ship of state hang w/them. If Joey was smart- he’d hold off announcing publicly top staff and Cabinet preferences until after the Georgia Senate runoffs. But he’s not smart, will tip his hand to reassure he’s got both oars in the water, announce assorted appointments and embolden a massive effort to keep Georgia Red to block his agenda.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  30. I can accept that Trump is undermining the Dept of Defense because he’s a short-timer and the situation will be rectify in 70 days. I’m less sanguine about Trump undermining our democracy with insane falsehoods about illegal votes.

    “REPORT: DOMINION DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE. DATA ANALYSIS FINDS 221,000 PENNSYLVANIA VOTES SWITCHED FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP TO BIDEN. 941,000 TRUMP VOTES DELETED. STATES USING DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS SWITCHED 435,000 VOTES FROM TRUMP TO BIDEN.”
    @ChanelRion @OANN

    Paul Montagu (77c694)

  31. at least we turned the corner and covid covid covid is finally over mr paul

    Dave (1bb933)

  32. @22

    ‘But democrats’ has been their strategy for screwing republican voters, sadly.

    Dustin (4237e0) — 11/12/2020 @ 12:09 pm

    At this point, I’m totally fine with it.

    Democrats in power is much, much worse.

    Until Democrats moves back towards the center, catering to more blue collar folks, I’m voting GOP downticket to keep Democrat’s from power.

    whembly (c30c83)

  33. @24

    We’d be talking about Democrats if Bernie Sanders had won.

    The GOP Establishment would have had to settle on Cruz or Kasich to block. And many hated one or the other enough enough not to do it.

    Kevin M (ab1c11) — 11/12/2020 @ 12:33 pm

    Part of the problem is that during the Primary process, candidates should’ve dropped out much sooner. So, all the split votes really gave fringe candidates staying power hoping to catch lightning.

    I hope the GOP re-evaluates their nomination primary process and introduce policies to whittle down the candidates in more orderly, rapid fashion.

    whembly (c30c83)

  34. Senior U.S. cybersecurity official asked to resign amid Trump transition tumult
    ….
    Bryan Ware, the Assistant Director for Cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), confirmed to Reuters that he had handed in his resignation on Thursday.

    He didn’t provide details, but a U.S. official familiar with the matter said the White House asked for Ware’s resignation earlier this week.
    ……

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  35. At this point, I’m totally fine with it.

    Democrats in power is much, much worse.

    Until Democrats moves back towards the center, catering to more blue collar folks, I’m voting GOP downticket to keep Democrat’s from power.

    whembly (c30c83) — 11/12/2020 @ 1:08 pm

    I respect the point of view. I definitely respect the value in divided government under Biden. But the GOP’s really crossing some lines in supporting what Trump is doing to our institutions, so I disagree that democrats are somehow ‘much much worse’ than all we’ve had to put up with. I just don’t see how that makes sense, even when I disagree with Biden on practically everything.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  36. #29

    Speaking as one of those people with the fate of the nation in their hands, I would be ticked by such an obvious ploy to keep me from knowing how Biden might deal with Congress.

    I am not sure that matters, though. My GOP Senators remain terrified of Trump and demanded that the GOP Secretary of State resign for the crime of letting Trump lose the state.

    To make this poor guy’s life complete, the guy just test positive for COVID.

    Appalled (1a17de)

  37. The Gratuitously Obsequious Party is getting desperate.

    https://hotair.com/archives/allahpundit/2020/11/12/trump-reached-diebold-rigged-voting-machines-phase-voter-fraud-pitch/

    Allahpundit is a cogent observer, but I’ll disagree with him and some commenters on this blog. The American people seldom get the government they deserve–they always only get the government they elect.

    “A republic, if you can keep it,” Benjamin Franklin once famously said.

    As it stands now, Biden has won the presidency. Republicans have gained seats in the House and barely maintained control of the Senate. The latter will be determined by the Georgia runoffs in January. It could be 50-50, with VP Harris as the tie-breaker.

    It’s not the government we deserve. It’s the government we elect. So be it, let’s move forward.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  38. I haven’t paid much attention to Trump’s changes at DoD, but I thought it might have something to do with the fact that Trump’s been demanding for three years that they pull our troops out of Afghanistan and for three years they’ve been refusing to do what their Commander in Chief has ordered them to do. Perhaps it has finally dawned on Trump that there are perhaps a few people within the federal bureaucracy who do not like him and will not do as he commands and perhaps he should fire them. I know that, generally speaking, the federal bureaucracy is totally non-partisan and will faithfully execute the wishes of their boss regardless of who that boss is and what his wishes are – for example, I don’t expect Biden to fire very many of Trump’s appointees but rather to keep them on as they are now experienced and, as civil servants, they certainly would have no personal loyalty to Trump – but there just possibly may be one or two – Obama appointees perhaps – who would style themselves “The Resistance” and work to undermine Trump and his goals. (Note: I’m not some crazy conspiracy theorist who’s saying there are one or two anti-Trump bureaucrats within the federal bureaucracy, I’m just saying there might be.)

    Jerryskids (999ce8)

  39. @38 He’s not firing Obama hold overs, he’s firing people he put into place.

    Nic (896fdf)

  40. He’s not firing Obama hold overs, he’s firing people he put into place.

    Esper got some criticism from people who thought he wasn’t standing up to Trump enough. Upon exiting, he explained that he had needed to pick his battles, so to speak. He wasn’t a Deep State resister, just someone trying to uphold his duty to the Constitution and the American people — while humoring Trump enough to hang on.

    Radegunda (7988d9)

  41. If the Obama Administration really did marshall the forces of the intelligence agencies and the FBI to undermine the incoming Trump Administration, I’d say that is more important to protect against this domestic abuse, especially if the UK and other nations’ intelligence agencies cooperated with the scheme. It’s not Trump vs. the Nation, in this situation. It’s the present vs. the future.

    ReciPaucity (735d23)

  42. , I’d say that is more important to protect against this domestic abuse

    That’s a great explanation for Trump doing this four years ago. Right after losing his election and fortifying the white house? Makes no sense. Consider that point that he’s firing people he hired, too.

    . It’s not Trump vs. the Nation, in this situation.

    Sure

    Dustin (4237e0)

  43. @41 Most of the people hired as career people by the bureaucracy during the Obama administration would’ve been relatively low level. One would assume that the more senior people hired during the Bush administration wouldn’t have been promoting overly partisan Obama people. Obviously the top level could have been some Clinton people, but they would generally be promoting midlevel and up (who would’ve been Bush era hires), not the low level guys.

    Nic (896fdf)

  44. 28.Were Trump to “win” the Electoral vote by means of legislative coup, his presidency wouldn’t be worth a barrel of warm s*it.

    Flippin’ electors would be flippin’ hilarious. And apparently legal.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  45. 33. whembly (c30c83) — 11/12/2020 @ 1:11 pm

    Part of the problem is that during the Primary process, candidates should’ve dropped out much sooner. So, all the split votes really gave fringe candidates staying power hoping to catch lightning.

    Donald Trump and Ben Carson were leading from the beginning.

    I suppose you are talking about the middle ranking middle of the roaders. Lindsey Graham enabled Donald Trump to catch fire?

    No, the problem was that good candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush dropped out too fast (though they both showed themselves unable to handle Donald Trump.

    Sammy Finkelman (b78e49)

  46. Sadly, its not surprising. Trump came to the White House as a complete a-hole. He will leave office as a complete a-hole. It’s just who he is, unfortunately.

    On another vein, I think we should be thankful for the drafters of the 20th Amendment, which moved the day of the Presidential inauguration from March 4 to January 20. Congressional terms were moved from March 4 to January 3. I don’t think that I paid much attention to 20A until now, where we are now subject to Trump’s awful lame duck behavior. While it is still little over 2 months and a week until Trump leaves office, I’m sure most of us appreciate 20A even more now. Otherwise, we would have to deal with Trump’s narcissism for an additional 1.5 months. Thank God.

    HCI (92ea66)

  47. 46.Sadly, its not surprising. Biden will come to the White House as a complete a-hole. He will leave office as a complete a-hole– or a corpse. It’s just who he is, unfortunately.

    FIFY

    DCSCA (797bc0)


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