Opposition Builds Against Mattis Pick Who Met With Muslim Brotherhood

Former Obama administration official Anne Patterson raising concerns

Anne Patterson

Anne Patterson / Getty Images

BY:

Opposition is mounting on Capitol Hill and in conservative foreign policy circles over Defense Secretary James Mattis's efforts to hire a former Obama administration official who lobbied in favor of engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood and spearheaded efforts to criticize Israeli counter-terrorism efforts, according to multiple sources close to the Trump administration.

Mattis is lobbying to hire former diplomat Anne Patterson as undersecretary of defense for policy, according to multiple reports, a position that would make her the third most powerful voice at the Defense Department.

Multiple sources on Capitol Hill and those close to the Trump foreign policy teams are voicing concerns about the pick, warning that Patterson would seek to continue some of the former Obama administration's most controversial foreign policies, such as conducting outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Patterson, who served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power, advocated in favor of negotiating with the terror group. Her efforts drew outrage in the Egyptian reformist community, which still views Patterson as working to legitimize the Muslim Brotherhood.

As assistant secretary of state for near east affairs in the Obama administration, Patterson also led efforts to criticize Israeli authorities after they killed a Palestinian-American terrorist who was attempting to stab civilians.

Patterson's record under the Obama administration has raised concerns on Capitol Hill, where she would require Senate confirmation in order to assume the Defense Department post.

Multiple sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about the matter expressed opposition to the pick and outlined larger concerns about efforts by Mattis to hire former Obama administration officials who conservatives view as responsible for multiple failures in U.S. foreign policy.

These sources also expressed concern about the Trump administration's failure to remove former Obama officials from the administration, citing the efforts by some to kneecap President Donald Trump's foreign policy team and preserve Obama-era policies.

"This would be a disastrous choice," one senior congressional aide tracking the matter told the Free Beacon. "Patterson has a well-documented track record of sticking up for extremist groups at every turn. Her selection would mean elevating someone whose views not only run counter to the president's, but U.S. national security as well. The administration should seriously reconsider."

A second senior Republican Senate aide expressed similar concerns. Patterson's views run counter to the foreign policy outlook expressed by Trump on the campaign trail, the source noted.

There is mounting concern over the promotion of Patterson to such a senior role, according to the source, who said this would "would send the wrong message given her background in Egypt, in particular her sympathies to the Muslim Brotherhood."

Insiders close to Trump's national security team described mounting concern over Mattis's efforts to hire Patterson.

"People concerned about the U.S.-Egypt relationship don't know what to make of Mattis's support for Anne Patterson," said one source, who explained that Patterson's record on Egypt is vastly different that Mattis' own comments about recalibrating relations with the country.

"Egyptians I have spoken to, both in and outside government, are extremely worried right now," the source added. "First, they can't believe they might have to contend with Patterson's pro-Brotherhood polices; and second, it's causing them to re-evaluate who they thought Secretary Mattis is."

As the Trump administration looks to reset years of strained relations with Cairo, the selection of Patterson could draw outrage from secular leaders who are still angered by her engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood, sources explained.

One Egyptian opposition leader who spoke to the Free Beacon during the 2013 revolution in Egypt described Patterson as "the first enemy of the revolution," claiming "she is hated even more than [former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed] Morsi."

Patterson met in 2012 with Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, who has been extremely critical of the United States.

Patterson still has strained relations with current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Reports in Middle Eastern publications indicated that Patterson pressured al-Sisi to release imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood members and later threatened him when he refused to do so.

Sources also raised questions about Patterson's commitment to Trump's foreign policy, which seeks to isolate fanatical religious organizations such as the Brotherhood and Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.

Patterson cast doubt during a 2015 Senate hearing on efforts to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group, efforts that are likely to be revisited by Trump's team.

One senior Republican foreign policy adviser who has close ties to the White House told the Free Beacon that Patterson would represent a continuation of the Obama administration's failed engagement in the Middle East.

"Anne Patterson is the embodiment of the Obama administration's failed approach to the Middle East, which focused on crowding out our traditional Arab allies with radical Islamists from Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood," said the source, who requested anonymity to speak freely about the administration.

"As the post-Kerry State Department becomes less and less relevant, and the White House and Defense Department take over foreign policy strategy, it's beyond irresponsible to put her in charge of the Pentagon's policy apparatus," the source said.

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.