Allies of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon intensified their battle against national security adviser H.R. McMaster this week as McMaster began asserting more control over the National Security Council and fired officials appointed by his immediate predecessor, Michael Flynn.
The dismissals of Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Rich Higgins, and Derek Harvey have exacerbated friction between McMaster and the White House’s more nationalist wing, which is led by Bannon and has President Donald Trump’s ear.
“There is a split in the White House between the Bannon camp of ideologues and the McMaster-Mattis-Tillerson camp of more centrist intellectuals,” Pete Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who worked closely with McMaster, told Politico. “And this conflict is playing out in real time as the Trump administration tries to flesh out its foreign policy and national security policy.”
John Kelly’s recent move from homeland security secretary to White House chief of staff should ensure McMaster’s independence and control over the NSC — for now.