Newly Installed NSA McMaster Reassures National Security Staff: No Witch Hunts Coming

McMaster says he is not carrying out a 'witch hunt' to shake up admin

H.R. McMaster

Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster / AP

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Incoming White House National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster sought to reassure senior Trump administration officials during his first "all hands" staff meeting Thursday, according to those who attended the get together and told the Washington Free Beacon that McMaster informed staffers he does not intend to pursue a major shakeup of President Donald Trump's national security team.

McMaster, who replaced Michael Flynn following his resignation last week, plans to navigate a vast departure from the Obama administration's foreign policy vision, according to senior White House officials who described the meeting as "reassuring." McMaster emphasized that he will not dismantle the team that Flynn had built.

As part of his discussion with White House national security staff, McMaster recommended a comprehensive reading list that included President Trump's book, "The Art of the Deal," and several other tomes by leading historians about how to get the upper hand on America's enemies. White House staff are said to have been mostly "thrilled" when hearing about the book list.

Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about McMaster's vision, as laid out in the Thursday meeting, expressed optimism about his appointment and pushed back on what they described as false media narratives centered around White House disarray following Flynn's departure.

"It's no secret we've had a few more all-hands meetings than we intended in our first month—but General McMaster used this event to both reassure the NSC staff and to give us the tools to continue the mission," said one senior White House National Security Council official who requested anonymity while discussing internal White House meetings.

McMaster explicitly told White House officials that he does not aim to dismantle Trump's foreign policy team or push out those perceived as still loyal to Flynn. These comments run counter to a recent New York Times report claiming that McMaster is pursuing a massive reorganization of the president's national security team.

"He made it clear he wasn't there to grind a political axe or engage in a witch hunt," the senior White House official said. "He was there to provide leadership, including direction on how to think about the task in front of us."

To help with this effort, McMaster recommended several books meant to help current White House officials understand his own foreign policy vision.

One senior White House official who spoke to the Free Beacon described the reading list as pleasantly surprising and a vast departure from the former Obama administration's own national security vision.

In addition to Trump's "Art of the Deal," McMaster recommended reading his own book, "Dereliction of Duty," which catalogues the mistakes that led the United States into a quagmire in Vietnam.

He also suggested that White House staffers read Peter Rodman's "Presidential Command," which McMaster reportedly referred to as the "gold standard" in foreign policy history. Rodman was a top official in the Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and both Bush administrations.

Senior White House staff are said to have found the mention of the book "very reassuring."

"It's certainly encouraging to see General McMaster highlighting his legacy," one source said.

McMaster went on to further recommend two books by Zachary Shore, a historian and international conflict expert who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School.

One Shore book, "Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions," was described as "a cautionary tale for the staff" at the White House. The other, "A Sense of the Enemy," examines methods to overtake rival forces.

Lastly, McMaster recommended staff read an essay by Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan titled, "The Rhyme of History," which tackles lessons from World War I.

Senior White House officials who took part in the meeting described the reading list as encouraging and part of an effort to restore conservative principals focused primarily on defending the U.S.'s best interests.

The mention of MacMillan's essay in particular "suggests General McMaster does not consider the 21st century a sort of post-historical bubble, but rather that there is a great deal to be learned from history as we chart our path forward," said one official who described McMaster as advocating a wholesale reversal from the Obama administration's vision.

Several historians currently serve on the White House's national security team, including Col. Derek Harvey, a former advisor to Gen. David Petraeus; Michael Anton, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, and Victoria Coates, a former top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and art historian.

Adam Kredo   Email Adam | Full Bio | RSS
Adam Kredo is senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Formerly an award-winning political reporter for the Washington Jewish Week, where he frequently broke national news, Kredo’s work has been featured in outlets such as the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Politico, among others. He lives in Maryland with his comic books. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is kredo@freebeacon.com.