An NSC Staffer Is Forced Out Over a Controversial Memo

President Donald Trump waves as he walks with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster from the Oval Office to Marine One in June. President Donald Trump waves as he walks with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster from the Oval Office to Marine One in June. Susan Walsh/AP

A top official of the National Security Council was fired last month after arguing in a memo that President Trump is under sustained attack from subversive forces both within and outside the government who are deploying Maoist tactics to defeat President Trump’s nationalist agenda.

His dismissal marks the latest victory by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in the ongoing war within Trump’s White House between those who believe that the president is under threat from dark forces plotting to undermine him, and those like McMaster who dismiss this as conspiratorial thinking.

Rich Higgins, a former Pentagon official who served in the NSC’s strategic-planning office as a director for strategic planning, was let go on July 21. Higgins’s memo describes supposed domestic and international threats to Trump’s presidency, including globalists, bankers, the “deep state,” and Islamists. The memo characterizes the Russia story as a plot to sabotage Trump’s nationalist agenda. It asserts that globalists and Islamists are seeking to destroy America. The memo also includes a set of recommendations, arguing that the problem constitutes a national-security priority.

“Globalists and Islamists recognize that for their visions to succeed, America, both as an ideal and as a national and political identity, must be destroyed,” the memo warns. It argues that this has led “Islamists [to] ally with cultural Marxists,” but that in the long run, “Islamists will co-opt the movement in its entirety.”

Higgins wrote the memo in late May, and at some point afterwards it began circulating among people outside the White House associated with the Trump campaign to whom Higgins had given it.

Higgins, according to another source with direct knowledge of the incident, was called into the White House Counsel’s office the week before last and asked about the memo. On July 21, the Friday of that week, he was informed by McMaster’s deputy Ricky Waddell that he was losing his job.

NSC spokesman Michael Anton declined to comment on Higgins’s firing, saying that the White House does not comment on internal personnel matters.

“In Maoist insurgencies, the formation of a counter-state is essential to seizing state power,” the memo reads. “Functioning as a hostile complete state acting within an existing state, it has an alternate infrastructure. Political warfare operates as one of the activities of the ‘counter-state.’” I was able to review large portions of the memo, and to secure extracts for publication.

“Because the left is aligned with Islamist organizations at local, national, and international levels, recognition should be given to the fact that they seamlessly interoperate through coordinated synchronized interactive narratives … These attack narratives are pervasive, full spectrum, and institutionalized at all levels. They operate in social media, television, the 24-hour news cycle in all media and are entrenched at the upper levels of the bureaucracies.”

Sources offered conflicting accounts of how the memo came to McMaster’s attention. Several sources with knowledge of the events said they believed the memo made its way to Trump’s desk, a version that others disputed.

Higgins’s bosses at the NSC were not pleased with the memo, sources say, the creation of which was not part of Higgins’s job. Higgins, seen as an ally of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, had only served on the council for a couple months.

Higgins had also “pushed for declassification of documents having to do with radical Islam and Iran,” according to a source close to the White House. A source close to Higgins said that specifically, Higgins had been pushing for the declassification of Presidential Study Directive 11, a classified report produced in 2010 by the Obama administration which presaged the Arab Spring, outlining unrest throughout the Middle East. The directive has become a shibboleth of activists such as Frank Gaffney, who see it as evidence of the Obama administration’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.

Higgins’s past writings focus on similar themes. “National Security officials are prohibited from developing a factual understanding of Islamic threat doctrines, preferring instead to depend upon 5th column Muslim Brotherhood cultural advisors,” he wrote in September. Higgins gave an interview to the Daily Caller News Foundation last year that outlines many of the same ideas laid out in the memo.

Since Higgins’s removal, there have been further changes inside the council. McMaster fired Derek Harvey, the senior director for the Middle East, last week. Also a Bannon ally, Harvey had a difficult relationship with his staff. Though Harvey sent a note over the weekend to contacts and friends sharing his personal contact information and previously confirmed his departure from the council in a statement, he may get another job within the administration. Higgins appears to have been afforded less of a soft landing.

In recent months, the conservative media have increasingly focused on the idea that a “deep state” or “holdovers” from the past administration are working against Trump from inside the government. Earlier this year, Harvey reportedly produced a list of such holdovers on the NSC and presented it to McMaster, who declined to fire them.

McMaster has pushed back on such efforts, reportedly telling an NSC town hall meeting that “there’s no such thing as a holdover” and emphasizing career staff’s loyalty.

McMaster has also sparred with Bannon, who was removed from the NSC principals’ committee at McMaster’s behest shortly after McMaster became national security adviser following the ouster of Michael Flynn after just 24 days on the job. McMaster’s relationship with Trump himself has likewise been difficult.

McMaster has faced setbacks on policy, with a recent NSC plan for Afghanistan being shot down. He has been the frequent subject of speculation about whether his job is safe, fueled by unflattering leaks, such as a recent AP story that detailed his having disagreed with Trump on Russia in conversations with foreign officials. Earlier this year, his attempt to fire Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the NSC’s top intelligence official, was blocked by Bannon, Jared Kushner, and Trump.

But more recently, he appears to have wrested back control of personnel decisions. In addition to Harvey and Higgins, he recently moved former Breitbartwriter Tera Dahl off of the NSC’s staff. The moves suggest an ongoing struggle within the Trump White House over the nature of the threats facing the United States, and how to address them.

Read the excerpt from the memo:

Through the campaign, candidate Trump tapped into a deep vein of concern among many citizens that America is at risk and slipping away. Globalists and Islamists recognize that for their visions to succeed, America, both as an ideal and as a national and political identity, must be destroyed. … Islamists ally with cultural Marxists because, as far back as the 1980s, they properly assessed that the left has a strong chance of reducing Western civilization to its benefit. Having co-opted post-modern narratives as critical points, Islamists will co-opt the movement in its entirety at some future point. (NOTE! Communist take over of Russian revolution against the Czars, N Vietnamese against the South, Maoists against the democratic forces against the Chinese dynasty.)

POLITICAL WARFARE ATTACKS—a primer

As used here, "political warfare' does not concern activities associated with the American political process but rather exclusively refers to political warfare as understood by the Maoist insurgency model. Political warfare is one of the five components of a Maoist insurgency. Maoist methodologies are described as synchronized violent and non-violent actions. This approach envisions the direct use of non-violent operations arts and tactics as elements of combat power In Maoist insurgencies, the formation of a counter-state is essential to seizing state power. Functioning as a hostile compete state acting within an existing state, it has an alternate infrastructure. Political warfare operates as one of the activities of the "counter-state." Political warfare uses non-violent methods such as participation that undermines the morale or offers to engage in discussions, as a adjunct to violence. Political warfare methods can be implemented at strategic, operations, or tactical levels of operation.

Political warfare is warfare. Strategic information campaigns designed to delegitimize through disinformation arise out of non-violent lines of effort in political warfare regimes. They run on multiple lines of operation, support the larger non-violent line of effort, are coordinated with violent lines of effort, and execute political warfare agenda promoting cultural Marxist outcomes. They principally operate through narratives. Because the left is aligned with Islamist organizations at local, national and international levels, recognition should be given to the fact that they seamlessly interoperate through coordinated synchronized interactive narratives … These attacks narratives are pervasive, full spectrum and institutionalized at all levels. They operate in social media, television, the 24-hour news cycle in all media and are entrenched at the upper levels of the bureaucracies …

Political Warfare has been described as "propaganda in battledress."

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