Aug 13, 2017

Anti-McMaster campaign is about to get uglier

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

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 704,095 — Total deaths: 33,509 — Total recoveries: 148,824.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 132,637 — Total deaths: 2,351 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked" people
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reported 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reported almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Cuomo: Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked people"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Sunday that President Trump's unexpected Saturday announcement of a possible "short-term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut to curb the spread of the coronavirus "really panicked people."

Why it matters: Though Trump ruled out the mandatory quarantine later that day, Cuomo said people still called "all night long" asking about the comments and many likely fled the New York area — possibly spreading the virus further.