The rumors have been circulating for months. Last fall, amidst tensions between Donald Trump and his national security advisor, the White House was reportedly mulling removing McMaster—but ultimately opted not to, reportedly because of the poor optics of firing him before Trump’s first year was even up. Then a week ago, it was reported that the administration was looking to “ease McMaster out” of his White House role and shift him to a job at the Pentagon. On Thursday, MSNBC reported that the plan to remove McMaster was a done deal.
Trump apparently finds McMaster’s style grating, as well as his “decision to voice political positions while still in uniform.” Two weeks ago, Trump publicly rebuked McMaster for saying that Russian interference in the 2016 elections was “incontrovertible.”
NBC reports that Ford executive Stephen Biegun is the leading candidate to replace McMaster. Biegun served as chief of staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1999 to 2000.
McMaster’s willingness to challenge Trump in private certainly made him stand out, but it’s unclear how much, from a policy standpoint, his departure will matter. Some of that will be determined by his replacement, but key members of Trump’s foreign policy team remain in place. And anyway, Trump has proven to be difficult for even his closest aides to corral.
McMaster’s impending departure does underscore what we’ve long known about the Trump administration, which is that it’s a grinding mess.