Monday 11 December 2017

President will face backlash if he axes his senior personnel

Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson

Kim Sengupta

While the focus was on the terrible massacre in Las Vegas, some remarkable developments were taking place involving the US president's senior men in Washington.

Rex Tillerson held a press conference to reassure that he was not going to resign. At the same time, he pointedly refused to deny that he had called Donald Trump a 'moron'.

The US secretary of state will continue his discreet direct talks with Pyongyang, having set up the channel through diligent diplomacy in an attempt to defuse a spiralling confrontation in which Mr Trump has repeatedly threatened to destroy North Korea. In carrying on with the talks he is ignoring Mr Trump, who has publicly dismissed them as a waste of time.

Just the day before, General James Mattis told Congress that the nuclear deal with Iran was working and should not be scrapped. He stressed that this was also the view of the other international signatories to the agreement with Tehran.

The US defence secretary was openly contradicting Mr Trump, who has repeatedly vowed to tear up the deal. This follows Mr Tillerson forcing the president in July to grudgingly certify that Iran was complying with the agreement.

At the same time reports have surfaced that Gen Mattis, Mr Trump's National Security Adviser Lieutenant General HR McMaster, and his Chief of Staff General John Kelly have renewed their pact to ensure that not all three will ever be abroad at the same time. They will ensure at least one remains in the country to monitor orders coming from the White House.

This is quite a scenario even by the extraordinary standards of the Trump administration.

It is as if some of his most senior men have decided that it is their patriotic duty to protect the country from the president's worst mistakes.

Mr Tillerson and Gen Mattis have long become frustrated by being undermined by Mr Trump and people close to him.

Mr Trump, in his short presidency, has already lost a chief of staff, a national security adviser, health secretary, a press secretary and two communications directors. He has fired the director of the FBI, and belittled his attorney general and deputy attorney general.

He will, however, face strong opposition, not least from prominent people from his own party, if he seeks to sack the senior members of the administration standing up to him.

Independent News Service

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