Shift­ing U.S. pol­icy to right, Trump taps Ses­sions, Flynn

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Julie Pace and Jonathan Lemire

NEW YORK >> Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump sig­naled a sharp right­ward shift in U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy Fri­day with his an­nounce­ment that he will nom­i­nate Alabama Sen. Jeff Ses­sions as at­tor­ney gen­eral and Kansas Rep. Mike Pom­peo to head the CIA, turn­ing to a pair of staunch con­ser­va­tives as he be­gins to fill out his Cabi­net.

Trump also named re­tired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn as his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser. A for­mer mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence chief, Flynn has ac­cused the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of be­ing too soft on ter­ror­ism and has cast Is­lam as a “po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy” and driver of ex­trem­ism.

Ses­sions and Flynn were ar­dent Trump sup­port­ers dur­ing the cam­paign, and their pro­mo­tions were seen in part as a re­ward for their loy­alty.

The se­lec­tions form the first out­lines of Trump’s Cabi­net and na­tional se­cu­rity teams. Given his lack of gov­ern­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and vague pol­icy pro­pos­als dur­ing the cam­paign, his se­lec­tion of ad­vis­ers is be­ing scru­ti­nized both in the U.S. and abroad.

Trump’s ini­tial de­ci­sions sug­gest a more ag­gres­sive mil­i­tary in­volve­ment in coun­tert­er­ror strat­egy and a greater em­pha­sis on Is­lam’s role in stok­ing ex­trem­ism. Ses­sions, who is best known for his hard-line im­mi­gra­tion views, has ques­tioned whether ter­ror sus­pects should ben­e­fit from the rights avail­able in U.S. courts. Pom­peo has said Mus­lim lead­ers are “po­ten­tially com­plicit” in attacks if they do not de­nounce vi­o­lence car­ried out in the name of Is­lam.

Pom­peo’s nom­i­na­tion to lead the CIA also opens the prospect of the U.S. re­sum­ing tor­ture of de­tainees. Trump has backed harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Congress have banned, say­ing the U.S. “should go tougher than wa­ter­board­ing,” which sim­u­lates drown­ing. In 2014, Pom­peo crit­i­cized Obama for “end­ing our in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram” and said in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials “are not tor­tur­ers, they are pa­tri­ots.”

In a sep­a­rate mat­ter Fri­day, it was an­nounced that Trump had agreed to a $25 mil­lion set­tle­ment to re­solve three law­suits over Trump Univer­sity, his for­mer school for real es­tate in­vestors. The law­suits al­leged the school mis­led stu­dents and failed to de­liver on its prom­ises in pro­grams that cost up to $35,000.

Trump has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and has said re­peat­edly he would not set­tle. New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Sch­nei­der­man, who an­nounced the set­tle­ment, called it “a stun­ning re­ver­sal by Don­ald Trump and a ma­jor vic­tory for the over 6,000 vic­tims of his fraud­u­lent univer­sity.”

Mes­sages seek­ing com­ment from Trump at­tor­neys and a spokes­woman were not im­me­di­ately re­turned.

Trump did not an­nounce his Cabi­net choices in per­son, in­stead re­leas­ing a state­ment. He has made no pub­lic ap­pear­ances this week, hol­ing up in his New York sky­scraper for meet­ings. He is spend­ing the week­end at his New Jersey golf club.

Ses­sions and Pom­peo would both re­quire Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion be­fore as­sum­ing their des­ig­nated roles; Flynn would not.

Mem­bers of mi­nor­ity groups have voiced alarm at Trump’s staff ap­point­ments so far, say­ing his choices threaten na­tional unity and prom­ise to turn back the clock on progress for racial, re­li­gious and sex­ual mi­nori­ties. They say com­ments at­trib­uted to Trump’s picks could em­bolden some Americans to lash out at mem­bers of mi­nor­ity groups

Most of Trump’s nom­i­nees are ex­pected to be con­firmed rel­a­tively eas­ily given the GOP ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate. How­ever, po­ten­tial road­blocks ex­ist, par­tic­u­larly for Ses­sions, the first se­na­tor to en­dorse Trump and one of the cham­ber’s most con­ser­va­tive mem­bers.

His last Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, in 1986 for a fed­eral judge­ship, was de­railed over al­le­ga­tions that he made racist com­ments, in­clud­ing call­ing a black as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney “boy” in con­ver­sa­tion. Ses­sions de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion, but with­drew from con­sid­er­a­tion.

Repub­li­cans were sup­port­ive on Fri­day. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell called his Se­nate col­league “prin­ci­pled, forth­right, and hard­work­ing.”

Ses­sions would bring to the Jus­tice Depart­ment a con­sis­tently con­ser­va­tive voice. He has ob­jected to the planned clo­sure of the Guan­tanamo Bay de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity and has given promi­nence to the specter of vot­ing fraud, a prob­lem that cur­rent Jus­tice Depart­ment lead­ers be­lieve is neg­li­gi­ble.

Pom­peo, who grad­u­ated first in his class at the U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­emy at West Point, is a con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can and a strong critic of Obama’s nu­clear deal with Iran. He has said for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency con­trac­tor Ed­ward Snow­den should en­joy due process and then be sen­tenced to death for tak­ing and re­leas­ing se­cret doc­u­ments about sur­veil­lance pro­grams in which the U.S. govern­ment col­lected the phone records of mil­lions of Americans.

An­thony Romero, the di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, said Pom­peo’s views raise con­cerns about “pri­vacy and due process.”

Of Trump’s new per­son­nel picks, Flynn will have the most di­rect ac­cess to the pres­i­dent. The na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser works from the West Wing and is of­ten one of the last peo­ple to meet with the pres­i­dent be­fore ma­jor for­eign pol­icy de­ci­sions are made.

Flynn built a rep­u­ta­tion in the mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity as an as­tute pro­fes­sional and un­con­ven­tional thinker. He as­serted that he was forced out of the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency in 2014 be­cause he dis­agreed with Obama’s ap­proach to com­bat­ing ex­trem­ism, though his crit­ics claimed he mis­man­aged the agency.

He shares Trump’s be­lief that Wash­ing­ton should work more closely with Moscow, and his warmth to­ward Rus­sia wor­ries some na­tional se­cu­rity ex­perts.

Flynn trav­eled last year to Moscow, where he joined Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and other Rus­sian of­fi­cials in a cel­e­bra­tion of the RT net­work, a Rus­sian govern­ment-con­trolled tele­vi­sion chan­nel. Flynn said he was paid for tak­ing part in the event, but brushed aside con­cerns that he was aid­ing a Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda ef­fort.

The pres­i­dent-elect is still weigh­ing a range of can­di­dates for other lead­ing na­tional se­cu­rity posts. Pos­si­bil­i­ties for sec­re­tary of state are said to in­clude for­mer New York City Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani, for­mer U.S. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions John Bolton, Ten­nessee Sen. Bob Corker and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley, who met with Trump Thurs­day.


Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, R-Ala. and Kellyanne Con­way, cam­paign man­ager for Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, speak to re­porters at Trump Tower in New York on Thurs­day.


In this photo taken Oct. 16, Rep. Mike Pom­peo, R-Kansas, speaks on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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