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Evan Vucci / AP

The bare-knuckle campaign to remove National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster from the White House is about to get much uglier.

Outside forces opposed to McMaster are going to allege he has a drinking problem, according to sources outside the Trump administration familiar with the anti-McMaster campaign. The controversial nationalist Mike Cernovich, who has an inside track on the anti-McMaster campaign, teased the alcohol attack in an Internet video with Alex Jones of the website Infowars. Anti-McMaster forces believe this attack will harm his standing with the president, who is a teetotaler.

To be clear: I have never heard anything to support the allegation from anyone inside the Trump administration or from anyone who's socialized with McMaster. We are covering it to highlight the extremes to which McMaster's opponents are prepared to take their war against the National Security Adviser.

  • A White House official told me "McMaster has been made aware that the attack is likely coming, and prefers to focus on his work."
  • Another official told me the majority of senior staff "have rallied around McMaster and believe that all of the attacks against him are divorced from reality."
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly finds the attacks dishonorable and disgusting, according to a source close to Kelly. President Trump is also off-put by the campaign against McMaster — even though his relationship with his National Security Adviser has at times been strained.

Why this matters: For the nationalists making them, these attacks could backfire. Most top White House officials find the attacks loathsome, and blame Steve Bannon for them. So instead of hurting McMaster, they may damage Bannon – who is already in a perilous position, as we reported yesterday.

It's unclear how long Bannon and McMaster, who are ideological foes, can both work in the same White House. The most startling clip from today's Sunday shows was on NBC's "Meet the Press," when host Chuck Todd pressed McMaster on whether he and Bannon could keep working under the same roof. McMaster refused to say that he could, refused to say Bannon was advancing the president's agenda, and refused even to say Bannon's name out loud.

  • Bannon has told associates he has nothing to do with the hits on McMaster, calling them a spontaneous reaction against the "globalist" from Trump's nationalist base. But senior White House officials don't believe him. Breitbart News, the media outlet Bannon led before joining the Trump campaign last August, has been leading the attacks on McMaster, though they're hardly alone.
  • Some White House officials were startled by the force of a recent statement by the conservative pro-Israel group, the Zionist Organization of America. On Wednesday, ZOA's president Mort Klein issued a report accusing McMaster of being hostile towards Israel and unserious about the threats of Iran and radical Islamic terrorism. Klein called on the president to "reassign him to another position where he can do no further harm on these critical national security issues."
  • One of the GOP's top donors, Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, funds Klein's group. I've asked an Adelson rep whether the billionaire donor signed off on ZOA's call for Trump to fire McMaster. The Adelson rep hasn't responded. Bannon is one of the few senior administration officials that the ZOA trusts on Israel.
  • Former senior Israeli military officials have defended McMaster in the Jerusalem Post. They wrote: "Such an attack is not mere opinion; it is an offense against the truth, against basic decency and against the best interests of Israel as we see them."

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.