A long-simmering dispute between two top White House aides has boiled into a public battle over the direction of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, with a cadre of conservative groups pushing for the ouster of national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
In recent days, conservative groups and a website tied to Trump adviser Steve Bannon have targeted McMaster as insufficiently supportive of Israel and insufficiently tough toward Iran. They’ve expressed outrage about the firings of several aides regarded as sympathetic to their views. An online campaign — under the hashtag #FireMcMaster — prompted Trump to declare his support for his adviser.
The dispute reflects the tensions at the heart of Trump’s foreign policy coalition. McMaster is one of several powerful generals in Trump’s orbit who hail from the Republican foreign policy establishment. But Trump is equally sympathetic to the views of firebrands like Bannon, who are trying to push the party in a new, isolationist direction embodied by his “America First” doctrine.
McMaster and Bannon have clashed loudly and repeatedly during recent White House discussions over Afghanistan war strategy, according to four administration officials and outside advisers. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss private conversations.
Afghanistan, however, represents only the latest dispute between McMaster and Bannon, who’ve also fought over White House personnel.
McMaster, an Army general, recently purged three National Security Council officials who were viewed as close to Bannon or to Michael Flynn, Trump’s previous national security adviser. For people close to Bannon, the moves were seen as telling. The former chief of Breitbart News, who wants Trump to upend the Washington foreign policy establishment, has bitterly argued against further U.S. entanglement in global conflicts and believes McMaster is adhering to holdover Obama administration policies.
Breitbart, which holds significant influence in Trump’s White House, has promoted a series of anti-McMaster headlines on its website. The Zionist Organization of America on Monday announced it has undertaken a review of McMaster’s views on Israel. Dozens of conservative and alt-right social media stars have hammered the national security adviser on Twitter.
The outcry grew so loud that Trump responded Friday: “General McMaster and I are working very well together. He is a good man and very…