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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.
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.
While the outside attacks on H.R. McMaster are set to continue — and a key line of attack is an accusation he's anti-Israel — the Israeli government appears to be signaling confidence in him and his colleagues in the White House's national security team.
A senior administration official tells me Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is sending leading security officials from his government to the U.S. later this week to meet with McMaster, Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and other senior officials.
What's next: President Trump is sending Kushner, Greenblatt and Powell to the Middle East for continued regional discussions to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. Bibi and Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the upcoming visit. The Trump negotiating team is expected to meet with leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, and Egypt.
The White House finally condemned white supremacists this morning, after prominent members of both parties rebuked President Trump for vaguely blaming "many sides" for the racist horror in Charlottesville, Va.
Per White House pool reporter, the Washington Examiner's Gabby Morrongiello, in a 10:42am email from New Jersey:
A White House spokesperson has offered the following statement in response to questions about President Trump's remarks yesterday:
"The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together."
The NYT's Maggie Haberman tweets this in response to the White House's statement: "They are really dragging this out. Potus still hasn't said this."
Between the lines: For insight into some of the (never back down!) advice Trump is hearing from his more hardline aides, go no further than this tweet from Vanity Fair's Gabe Sherman: "When I asked senior WH official why Trump didn't condemn Cville [Charlottesville] Nazis, he said: 'What about the leftist mob. Just as violent if not more so'..."
Go deeper: Here's what we know so far about the alleged domestic terrorist, who plowed his car into the counter-protesters on Saturday. He's been charged with second-degree murder.
Sunday highlight reel, with reactions to North Korea, the Charlottesville violence, and the uncertain future of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon:
Some administration officials tensed up when Bloomberg reported that "White House and Republican officials are exploring the idea of putting West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in charge of the Energy Department."
Key paragraph in the intriguing Bloomberg story:
"If Manchin were offered and accepted the position, that would allow West Virginia's Governor Jim Justice — a newly minted Republican — to appoint a GOP successor and bring the party a vote closer in the Senate to being able to repeal Obamacare. The idea is in the early stages of consideration, and it's unclear whether it has support within the administration, according to the people, who described the conversations under condition of anonymity."
So, how seriously should we take this chatter?