President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, advised him in a closed-door meeting last week to stop using a phrase that was a frequent refrain during the campaign: “radical Islamic terrorism.”
But the phrase will be in the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, according to a senior White House aide—even though McMaster reviewed drafts and his staff pressed the president’s chief speechwriter and senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, not to use it.
What the president decides to say from the House floor will be an early indication of McMaster’s clout within the administration. In his first remarks to the National Security Council last week, McMaster told his new staff he considered the term “radical Islamic terrorism” unhelpful, according to a second White House aide. “Even a small change like referring to radical Islamist terrorism would be an improvement, in his view,” said this aide.
At the same time, the president’s political advisers fear any sudden change in his rhetoric could open him to charges that he’s abandoning his promise to speak plainly and openly to the American people. Both sides say a gradual shift in the president’s rhetoric over time is possible.