Report: Team Trump having trouble finding recruits for natsec positions

Good news, no? If, as populists like to say, experts are really just morons with credentials, we might as well start fresh with a national security bureaucracy that lacks experts.

This is related to the last post about Trump’s cabinet appointees insofar as it gives him added reason to prefer an establishment hand like Steven Hadley in his cabinet over a less experienced, more populist choice. If Hadley gets a big job, it’ll show lower-ranking bureaucrats who are wary of working for Trump that (a) someone whom they know, and who knows what he’s doing, will be in charge and (b) Trump intends to govern like more of a mainstream Republican than he ran as.

Team Trump is struggling to fill numerous key slots or even attract many candidates because hundreds have either sworn they’d never work in a Trump administration or have directly turned down requests to join, multiple current and former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the transition efforts told The Daily Beast…

One person who met last month with Trump’s national security and homeland security transition team leader said that she confessed that many candidates had flatly rejected attempts to recruit them, believing that Trump was unfit to hold the office of commander in chief

“She wasn’t even sure that she was going to be able to fill a transition team,” much less find people to serve in government positions, this person said…

The likely pool of Trump administration officials now will come from a second-tier of younger and less experienced people, Stewart Baker, the former general counsel of the National Security Agency, told The Daily Beast.

Nothing surprising about this. Virtually every top natsec person in Bush’s administration, from Condi Rice to Michael Chertoff to Michael Hayden, refused to endorse Trump, and Hayden made a point of criticizing him in withering terms. He was on TV literally yesterday to say that Trump’s approach to problems is “alien” to the way intel pros do it. Dozens upon dozens of Republican security professionals signed an open letter back in March declaring Trump reckless and unworthy of support as president. A national security “brain drain” was totally foreseeable, and in fact was foreseen.

To the extent he ever really believed he’d win, I assume Trump’s proposed solution to this problem was simply to win the election and expect that naysayers would be lured back to government jobs by the promise of influence over natsec policy and the sense that they owe it to the country, if not to him, to do their best to protect it. Trump being Trump, if there’s a terror attack and he’s understaffed, he won’t hesitate to blame Republicans who refused to work for him rather than take a “buck stops here” approach. I think some of the #NeverTrumpers in the natsec community who’ve vowed not to work for him will change their minds, more out of patriotic duty than out of needing the paycheck, but they may need a sign that Trump is willing to meet them halfway. That’s where appointing a Hadley-type comes in. On the other hand, with stuff like this leaking now, maybe their resistance will prove more durable than we expect. It’s one thing not to work for Trump because you find him vulgar and demagogic, it’s another not to work for him because you suspect he’s a useful idiot for Putin — which Hayden, for one, does.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, in an interview with the state-run Interfax news agency, said that “there were contacts” with the Trump team [during the campaign].

“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Rybakov said. “Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions. I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”…

Speaking to Bloomberg News, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russian Embassy staff met with members of Trump’s campaign, which she described as “normal practice.” Democratic Party contender Hillary Clinton’s campaign refused similar requests for meetings, she told the agency.

Asked later for clarification, a Foreign Ministry official declined to elaborate on Ryabkov’s remarks, but said standard diplomatic moves called for “contact with the leaders in the campaign” for issues such as clarifying statements by the candidate or conveying interview requests from Russian journalists.

Trump’s campaign denies it, but there are loads of Trump aides who have contacts with Russia, as Rybakov alludes to above — former campaign chair Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, Carter Page, Boris Ephsteyn, and so on. The FBI found no clear link between the campaign itself and the Russian government yet Trump and his team’s relationships with Russia are probably the single most suspicious thing about him to natsec officers like Hayden. It may be, in fact, that Rybakov is exploiting those suspicions by executing a psy op here about the extent of Russia’s relationship with the campaign. Same goes for the Russian analyst yesterday who acknowledged that “maybe we helped a bit with Wikileaks.” If you know the incoming president has a credibility problem with his national security bureau, why wouldn’t you capitalize by sowing new seeds of doubt, whether they’re true or not? Although … they probably did help with the Wikileaks revelations about Democrats. So if you’re a Republican intel apparatchik, what do you do? Exit quotation: