Trump ap­point­ments sig­nal se­cu­rity hard line

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

It wasn’t just talk. If there was any doubt about whether Don­ald Trump meant busi­ness with his hard­line cam­paign pro­nounce­ments on im­mi­gra­tion, race, ter­ror­ism and more, the pres­i­den­t­elect went a long way to dis­pel them Fri­day with his first ap­point­ments to his na­tional se­cu­rity team and at the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

Trump’s tri­fecta in se­lect­ing Sen Jeff Ses­sions for at­tor­ney gen­eral, re­tired Lt Gen Michael Flynn for na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser and Rep Mike Pom­peo to lead the CIA sent a strong mes­sage that Amer­i­cans are go­ing to get what they voted for in elect­ing a Repub­li­can whose cam­paign talk about na­tional se­cu­rity mat­ters largely tog­gled be­tween tough and tougher.

There has been on­go­ing mys­tery about what to ex­pect in a Trump pres­i­dency: Even some of Trump’s own sup­port­ers wrote off some of his more provoca­tive cam­paign com­ments. Trump’s own pol­icy state­ments have zigged and zagged de­pend­ing on the au­di­ence. And his first two ap­point­ments to the White House staff - GOP Chair­man Reince Priebus as chief of staff and one­time Bre­it­bart News chief Steve Ban­non as a se­nior ad­viser - sent a mixed mes­sage with the choice of an es­tab­lish­ment fig­ure and a flamethrow­ing out­sider.

But Fri­day’s picks of­fered a con­crete in­di­ca­tion that Trump’s pres­i­dency may in fact be headed sharply to the right on is­sues of na­tional se­cu­rity. “If you be­lieve in per­son­nel as pol­icy, it’s pretty clear where the ar­rows are point­ing,” says Calvin Macken­zie, a pres­i­den­tial scholar at Colby Col­lege in Maine. Prince­ton his­to­rian Ju­lian Zelizer says the three choices all rep­re­sent conservative fig­ures with track records in gov­ern­ment, not “wildly outof-the-box peo­ple who don’t even come from the world of politics.”

“That’s a mes­sage not just about him fol­low­ing through on his cam­paign prom­ises, but it’s about par­ti­san­ship,” says Zelizer. “He’s giv­ing a sig­nal to the Repub­li­cans to stick with him be­cause he’ll de­liver.” Trump still has plenty of big ap­point­ments yet to make, in­clud­ing sec­re­tary of state, that could tele­graph other direc­tions. And Congress, too, will have a say in set­ting na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy.

Trump’s three lat­est all have sharply dif­fered with Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy:

Ses­sions, the Alabama sen­a­tor and for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tor, is known for his tough stance on im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment. He’s ques­tioned whether ter­ror­ism sus­pects should get the protection of the US court sys­tem, op­poses clos­ing the de­ten­tion cen­ter at Guan­tanamo Bay and has high­lighted con­cerns about vot­ing fraud, which the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sees as a non-is­sue. He has said Obama’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism poli­cies have “em­bold­ened our ene­mies” and those concerned about war­rant­less wire­taps have “ex­ag­ger­ated the ex­tent to which this is some­how vi­ola­tive of our Con­sti­tu­tion”. His ap­point­ment to a fed­eral judge­ship in 1986 fell through af­ter he was ac­cused of mak­ing racially charged state­ments while US at­tor­ney in Alabama.

Pom­peo, the three-term con­gress­man from Kansas, is an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of the Iran nu­clear deal, has said NSA leaker Edward Snow­den is a traitor who de­serves the death sen­tence and has said Mus­lim lead­ers are “po­ten­tially com­plicit” in ter­ror­ist at­tacks if they do not de­nounce vi­o­lence car­ried out in the name of Is­lam.

Flynn stepped down as di­rec­tor of the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency in April 2014 and said he’d been forced out be­cause he dis­agreed with Obama’s ap­proach to com­bat­ting ex­trem­ism. Crit­ics said he’d mis­man­aged the agency. Flynn has pressed for a more ag­gres­sive US cam­paign against the Islamic State group, and fa­vors work­ing more closely with Rus­sia.

The three ap­point­ments sync up with mes­sages that Trump vot­ers sent in the exit polls on Elec­tion Night. Trump’s back­ers put a higher pri­or­ity on ad­dress­ing ter­ror­ism and im­mi­gra­tion than did Clin­ton’s sup­port­ers. Three-fourths of them said the US was do­ing very badly or some­what badly at deal­ing with IS. Just 2 in 10 thought blacks are treated un­fairly in the US crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Three­fourths backed build­ing a wall on the south­ern border to con­trol il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Trump’s po­si­tions, mean­while, have gone through dif­fer­ent it­er­a­tions, con­tinue to evolve and still have big gaps. On im­mi­gra­tion, his views have ar­rived at a pol­icy that sounds much like Wash­ing­ton as usual. The ap­proach he sketched out in a post-elec­tion in­ter­view on “60 Min­utes” would em­brace the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s push to de­port the most se­ri­ous crim­i­nals who are in the US il­le­gally as well as the call by many Repub­li­can law­mak­ers to se­cure the border be­fore con­sid­er­ing any le­gal sta­tus for those who’ve com­mit­ted im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions but oth­er­wise lived law­fully. He even pulled back a bit on his vaunted south­ern wall, sug­gest­ing a fence may be enough for part of it.

Trump the cam­paigner also moved away from his in­flam­ma­tory vow to freeze the en­try of for­eign Mus­lims into the US, set­tling late in the race on “ex­treme” vet­ting of im­mi­grants from coun­tries and re­gions plagued by vi­o­lent rad­i­cal­ism. He’s vowed to crush the Islamic State group, but he won’t say how. Trump has also said he be­lieves in en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques, which can in­clude wa­ter­board­ing and other types of tor­ture that are against the law and that many ex­perts ar­gue are in­ef­fec­tive.

Repub­li­can Rep Devin Nunes of Cal­i­for­nia, the chair­man of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, on Fri­day dis­missed Trump’s com­ments about wa­ter­board­ing as the talk of a “first-time neo­phyte run­ning for of­fice.”“Wa­ter-board­ing com­ing back, I find that hard to be­lieve,”he said. —AP

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