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Mike Flynn: Trump team’s weakest link

(CNN)As President Donald J. Trump’s national security team falls into place, there has been much focus on the substance of what some are calling a “Trump Doctrine” that emerged during his inaugural speech: America First. The phrase itself is controversial, evoking memories of WWII’s America First Committee and its anti-Semitic founders, and as specific policy it is vague.

But now that Trump is governing, slogans need to be implemented. And a dynamic is playing out within his Cabinet (and Cabinet-in-waiting) that is worthy of attention.
    The confirmation hearings of Trump’s three confirmed Cabinet members — Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and CIA Director Mike Pompeo — as well as his nominees for Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) and even US Ambassador to the UN (Nikki Haley) were largely uncontroversial except in one important regard: They all expressed fundamental disagreement with basic tenets of Trump’s campaign and foreign policy strategy.
    Whether it was approaches to Russia, a border wall, climate change, NATO or torture, the nominees seemed to care little about how at odds their opinion was to those of the White House strategists. This suggests the cabinet may well already be at war with the national security team — mainly National Security Advisor Michael Flynn — from the outset.

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    I remember what my then-boss Secretary Janet Napolitano said to me when I was part of Obama’s incoming team at the Department of Homeland Security: “Remember, there are nearly 300,000 of them, and only a couple of dozen of us.” Her point: that a political apparatus that goes to war with its agency professionals may find itself unable to effectuate basic change. Pompeo, the CIA designate, knows this and is said to be taking the transition seriously despite Trump’s publicly going to war against his intelligence agencies in the weeks after his election.
    If the “team of rivals” shaping up in the new administration were not proof of Flynn’s limited influence, news reports now suggest that he may be facing a mutiny from within the White House.
    Quoting a transition official, the Washington Post reported last week that Flynn’s publicly embarrassing failure to lead a seamless transition of the national security apparatus has led to other White House advisors — including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — taking over sections of the national security docket. Flynn may find himself outflanked and, if the investigation into his ties to Russia continue, without many friends.
    Only President Trump and his management style are to blame for this “Real Housewives of the Secure Room Where Classified Information is Shared.” Meanwhile, international conflicts take no break for a new president or his team’s internal conflicts.
    Trump’s rough first weekend could teach his staff that it is finally time to govern. And it may also expose the weakest link in America’s national security staffing: The man at the White House, Michael Flynn.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/23/opinions/flynn-trump-problematic-team-of-rivals-kayyem/index.html

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