‘Deep State’ Memo That Rattled McMaster’s
National Security Council Released
August 11, 2017 "Information
A controversial memo penned by a former
National Security Council staffer has been
released. The document states, among other
accusations, that the “deep state” is trying
to undermine President Donald Trump.
copy of the “POTUS & Political
Warfare” memorandum, dated May 2017,
was published by Foreign Policy on Thursday.
Rich Higgins, who served as the director of
strategic planning for the NSC, was the
author of the seven-page memorandum. He
resigned from the NSC in July after National
Security Advisor H.R. McMaster discovered he
was behind the memo.
Although it does not mention McMaster’s
name specifically, the NSC chief is
purportedly one of the people described in
the memo as trying to restrain Trump, an
unnamed source with first hand knowledge of
the memo and events, said, according to
“The administration has been
maneuvered into a constant back-pedal by
relentless political warfare attacks
structured to force him to assume a reactive
posture that assures inadequate responses,”
the memo stated.
“Having become the dominant cultural
meme, some benefit from it while others are
captured by it; including ‘deep state’
actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and
establishment Republicans,” the
After the memo reached McMaster, Higgins,
who was working in the strategic planning
office, was forced to resign by McMaster’s
deputy, Ricky Waddell. Waddell told Higgins
that if he didn’t resign, his security
clearance would be revoked.
McMaster allegedly determined some NSC
staffers that were holdovers from former
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s
brief tenure were the type of people he had
been looking to replace. This also led to
the firing of top NSC intelligence official
Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Derek Harvey, who
controlled the NSC’s Middle East portfolio,
according to Foreign Policy.
The most notable change resulting from
the shake up is the
removal of the president’s chief
strategist, Steve Bannon, from his seat on
the security council.
An unnamed source with first hand
knowledge of the memo described McMaster’s
decision-making after reviewing the document
and discovering his inclusion, Foreign
“It was about H.R. McMaster,”
the source said. “So, when he starts
reading it, he knows it’s him and he fires
The memo was purportedly first discovered
by McMaster and the NSC after a search for
staffers who were believed to be giving
information to conservative author and
activist Mike Cernovich, who seemed to have
uncanny knowledge of operations at the NSC.
A subsequent “routine security”
audit of NSC staffers’ communications
eventually led to the finding of the memo,
unnamed sources said, according to Foreign
Policy. A different unnamed source explained
the email audit as a McCarthyist-type leak
investigation targeting staffers who had
communication with Cernovich.
“McMaster was just very, very
obsessed with this, with Cernovich,” an
unnamed senior administration official told
Foreign Policy. “He had become this
Trump eventually saw the memo and was
“furious” after learning the author was
fired by McMaster, an unnamed senior White
House official said.
“He is still furious,” the
senior official added.
The fallout from the document has
magnified McMaster’s difficulties at the NSC
since taking over from Flynn. One unnamed
source familiar with the NSC staff stated
that the NSC chief “doesn’t really have
any allies,” Foreign Policy reported.
“It doesn’t seem as though he has the
ear of the president, which is obviously
essential to his survival.”
On Wednesday, the billionaire Sheldon
Adelson-backed Zionist Organization of
America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the
United States, unleashed a
report calling for McMaster’s
reassignment to a post not dealing with
issues concerning Israel or Iran. The group
accuses McMaster of being a threat to Trump
due to his firing of Flynn-era NSC staffers.
contributed $5 million to Trump’s
inaugural committee before he was sworn in
11, 2017 "Information
- The memo at the heart of the latest blowup at
the National Security Council paints a dark
picture of media, academics, the “deep state,”
and other enemies allegedly working to subvert
U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a copy
of the document obtained by
seven-page document, which eventually landed on
the president’s desk, precipitated a crisis that
led to the departure of several high-level NSC
officials tied to former National Security
Advisor Michael Flynn. The author of the memo,
Rich Higgins, who was in the strategic planning
office at the NSC, was among those recently
full memo, dated May 2017, is titled “POTUS &
Political Warfare.” It provides a sweeping, if
at times conspiratorial, view of what it
describes as a multi-pronged attack on the Trump
is being attacked, the memo says, because he
represents “an existential threat to cultural
Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing
cultural narrative.” Those threatened by Trump
include “‘deep state’ actors, globalists,
bankers, Islamists, and establishment
memo is part of a broader political struggle
inside the White House between current National
Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and alt-right
operatives with a nationalist worldview who
believe the Army general and his crew are
subverting the president’s agenda.
not called out by name, McMaster was among those
described in the document as working against
Trump, according to a source with firsthand
knowledge of the memo and the events. Higgins,
the author, is widely regarded as a Flynn
loyalist who dislikes McMaster and his team.
about H.R. McMaster,” the source said. “So, when
he starts reading it, he knows it’s him and he
story of the memo’s strange journey to the Oval
Office captures the zeitgeist of what has become
the tragicomedy of the current White House: a
son trying to please his father, an isolated
general on a mission to find a leaker, a
right-wing blogger with a window into the
nation’s security apparatus, and a president
whose closest confidante is a TV personality.
result is an even wider rift between the
president and his national security advisor,
marking what may be the beginning of the end of
the general’s tenure, and a radical shift of
power on the NSC.
The controversy over the memo has its origins in
a hunt for staffers believed to be providing
information to right-wing blogger Mike
Cernovich, who seemed to have uncanny insight
into the inner workings of the NSC. Cernovich in
the past few months has been conducting a
against the national security advisor.
“McMaster was just very, very obsessed with
this, with Cernovich,” a senior administration
official told FP.
“He had become this incredible specter.”
July, the memo was discovered in Higgins’s email
during what two sources described to
Foreign Policy as a
“routine security” audit of NSC staffers’
communications. Another source, however,
characterized it as a McCarthy-type leak
investigation targeting staffers suspected of
communicating with Cernovich.
Higgins, who had worked on the Trump campaign
and transition before coming to the NSC, drafted
the memo in late May and then circulated the
memo to friends from the transition, a number of
whom are now in the White House.
the memo was discovered, McMaster’s deputy,
Ricky Waddell, summoned Higgins, who was told he
could resign — or be fired, and risk losing his
security clearance, according to two sources.
Higgins, who agreed to resign, was escorted out
of the building. He later learned from his
colleagues still at the NSC that his association
to this now-infamous memo was the reason he was
Following Higgins’s departure, McMaster set out
to clean house, a source close the White House
said — getting rid of NSC staffers linked to the
memo, perceived as loyal to his predecessor,
Michael Flynn, or simply those with whom he’d
butted heads over foreign policy. Among those
fired was Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the NSC’s top
intelligence official, and Derek Harvey, who
handled the NSC’s Middle East portfolio.
meantime, however, the memo had been working its
way through the Trump White House. Among those
who received the memo, according to two sources,
was Donald Trump Jr.
Jr., at that time in the glare of media scrutiny
around his meeting with a Russian lawyer at
Trump Tower during the presidential campaign,
gave the memo to his father, who gushed over it,
according to sources.
comedy of errors, Trump later learned from Sean
Hannity, the Fox News host and close friend of
the president, that the memo’s author had been
fired. Trump was “furious,” the senior
administration official said. “He is still
memo lays out what it described as a concerted
campaign to undermine the president.
administration has been maneuvered into a
constant back-pedal by relentless political
warfare attacks structured to force him to
assume a reactive posture that assures
inadequate responses,” it reads. “The president
can either drive or be driven by events; it’s
time for him to drive them.”
purpose of the memo, said a source familiar with
the document, was to educate others in the White
House about just what the president is allegedly
memo maybe reads a little crazy, sure, but it’s
not wrong and Rich isn’t crazy,” an
administration official said.
Many inside the White House had only seen the
first page or two of the memo — or had only read
the excerpts published in the Atlantic,
which first reported
the existence of the memo, several sources said.
memo’s repeated references to the Muslim
Brotherhood — which is grouped among “key
international players that includes the European
Union and the United Nations — surprised few
inside the NSC familiar with what had been a
Flynn obsession. “Oh look, it’s the newest
member of the Muslim Brotherhood,” was a common
joke among those critical of Flynn loyalists,
and what they regarded as a conspiracy theory, a
source close to the NSC said.
3,500-word memo was written in a personal
capacity, according to a source familiar with
its drafting. The source described it as a
“technical assessment” of the current political
situation, and said it was never disseminated
from the NSC in any official manner, but shared
with personal contacts from the Trump campaign.
opposition to President Trump manifests itself
through political warfare memes centered on
cultural Marxist narratives, this hardly means
that opposition is limited to Marxists as
conventionally understood,” the memo reads.
“Having become the dominant cultural meme, some
benefit from it while others are captured by it;
including ‘deep state’ actors, globalists,
bankers, Islamists, and establishment
not wrong per se,” said another official.
“Actually, it’s not wrong at all. The not-wrong
part is just, well, buried a bit I guess by some
of the wackier parts.”
memo calls out those pushing for rights “based
on sex or ethnicity,” which is a “direct assault
on the very idea of individual human rights and
natural law around which the Constitution was
framed.” It also says that “transgender
acceptance” is “denying a person the right to
declare the biological fact of one’s
Contacted by FP,
Higgins declined to comment on the memo or his
departure from the NSC.
recent NSC shake-up appears to go beyond
concerns about the memo. The recently ousted NSC
staffers had been brought in by Flynn, who
resigned for allegedly lying to Vice President
Mike Pence about the substance of a December
phone call he had with a Russian official.
is now under investigation for, among other
things, failing to report income for lobbying on
behalf of Turkey shortly before he became
involved in the campaign.
elimination of Higgins, Cohen-Watnick, and
Harvey has helped McMaster assert control of the
NSC, which was staffed during the early days of
the administration by those loyal to Flynn and
Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist.
last week, McMaster also planned to put at least
four other NSC staffers on the chopping block,
but was prevented from doing so by newly
installed Chief of Staff John Kelly, according
to two sources. All but one of those staffers
had ties dating back to the campaign or
source close to McMaster denied those planned
White House press office did not respond to
FP‘s request for
comment. A NSC spokesman declined to comment,
citing a policy against speaking about internal
Higgins’s firing, McMaster’s difficulties inside
the White House aren’t going away anytime soon —
though he might.
McMaster “doesn’t really have any allies,” said
a source familiar with the NSC staff. “It
doesn’t seem as though he has the ear of the
president, which is obviously essential to his
Kate Brannen and Jenna McLaughlin contributed
reporting to this article.
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