Friday 9 December 2016

Donald Trump could make Sinn Fein ally Peter King counter-terror chief in White House

Suzanne Breen

Published 18/11/2016 | 20:31

Peter King
Peter King

A lifetime supporter of Sinn Fein could be in line for a key position in Donald Trump's administration, according to Washington insiders.

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Unlike many other mainstream Republican politicians, US Congressman Peter King backed the billionaire businessman during the White House race.

His loyalty to Mr Trump has led to speculation that he could be appointed homeland security advisor - the chief counter-terrorism aide to the President.

The New York Congressman, who has voiced support for the Provisional IRA and is seen as a close friend of Gerry Adams, is considered one of the most respected experts on terrorism and security on Capitol Hill.

Yesterday's New York Times reported that Mr King was also in the running to be US ambassador to the UN.

However, most speculation is centring on a possible appointment as homeland security and counter-terrorism advisor.

While Mr King has not been lobbying for the position, sources said he was in the running because of his "incredible credentials", his ability to work with Democrats, and because "Donald likes the guy".

Asked if he would accept the senior position if it was offered to him by the President-elect, Mr King told Newsmax: "I certainly will look at it."

Peter Hoekestra, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said: "Peter would be awesome in that job." He described the 72-year-old Congressman as "one of most knowledgeable people in Congress on what threatens Americans".

If appointed assistant to the President for homeland security and counter-terrorism, Mr King would help Trump coordinate policies with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, as well as the CIA and other agencies.

Washington sources said that even if Mr King did not secure the job, he would still play a key role in Congress for Mr Trump.

"Mark my words, Peter King will be a very influential figure for the new administration," one source insisted.

Mr King was at Mr Trump's campaign headquarters in Manhattan on election night. He has vigorously defended the President-elect, hailing his victory as "a great day for the American people" and denouncing those demonstrating against him.

The New York Congressman branded the college student protesters "childish, immature and stupid" and told a local radio station: "I don't know what would happen if a real war ever came. You think back to the greatest generation, and now you have these people.

"They're having crying sessions (and) giving them comfort dogs. They're giving them group therapy because they're so upset that Hillary Clinton lost the election.

"Come on, have some guts, have some nerve, get out there. We're supposed to be a great country. Are these the morons we're counting on to be leaders in the future?"

Mr King did not support Mr Trump at the outset of the Republican primary race, but became a vocal backer after the billionaire secured his party's nomination.

Now entering his 13th term in the House of Representatives, he is a member of the House's Homeland Security Committee and is the chair of the Sub-committee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence. Once shunned by the political establishment, he has become a highly respected figure in Washington and is one of the most prominent cheerleaders for the country's war on terror.

The congressman, whose paternal grandparents were from Co Galway, became interested in Irish politics in the late 1970s. He began visiting Ireland and befriended many republican figures, once comparing Gerry Adams to George Washington.

In 1982, Mr King told a rally in Long Island: "We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry."

Three years later, he declared: "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it."

Mr King was once a close ally of former Noraid publicity director Martin Galvin. When he was elected grand marshal of the 1985 St Patrick's Day parade in New York, the Irish government boycotted the event in protest.

Congressman King found himself more in the political mainstream after the IRA's 1994 ceasefire, and both Tony Blair and Bill Clinton praised his role in the peace process. After 9/11, he began distancing himself from the Provisionals, arguing that they should disband.

He became known as a strong opponent of Islamic terrorism, even suggesting that President Obama "use the word 'terrorism' more often" in public.

Although he is not as vocal on Irish issues as he once was, Mr King remains on good terms with Sinn Fein and branded it "totally inexcusable" when Mr Adams was denied entry into the White House earlier this year for a St Patrick's Day reception.

Belfast Telegraph

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