In a report on a gathering of conservative national security experts at a gathering at a private Reagan Institute retreat in Beaver Creek, Colorado, the Washington Post reports that many of those attending who might provide counsel to Donald Trump are being iced out for the crime of opposing his election in 2016.
According to the report, “Republican national security heavyweights blacklisted from his administration for signing a pair of ‘never Trump’ letters in 2016 face a crossroads — remain opposed or support him in 2020.”
“The White House has shown little willingness to tap into this wellspring of expertise, even as Trump cycles through national security aides and faces a dwindling pool of experienced staffers for a potential second term,” the report continues, adding that some who criticized the president when he was still a candidate are wondering if they made the right decision.
“I’m not comfortable with letters anymore,” explained Patrick Cronin, head of the Asia-Pacific security program at the Hudson Institute, with the Post noting that the letter called Trump “fundamentally dishonest” and “utterly unfitted to the office,” and led to Cronin to being forced to withdraw from a leading position at a Pentagon think tank.
Now Cronin says, “I don’t regret the letter in 2016; I thought it was the right thing to do. But I’m not writing or signing any letters in 2020. I’m not predicting the outcome of the election. I will be supporting the U.S. government.”
According to the report, “Of the 149 experts who signed at least one of the two letters warning that Trump was unfit for office — the first published on the War on the Rocks website during the 2016 GOP primaries and the second on the New York Times’s site during the general election campaign — just one has been hired by the Trump administration. James Jeffrey, a Middle East expert who served under Presidents George W. Bush.”
The Post also notes that Jeffrey’s position did not require Senate confirmation which prevented Democrats from reading the letter he signed into the public record.
According to Peter Feaver, a Duke University political science professor who served on the National Security Council under George W. Bush, he doesn’t regret signing the two letters, saying they still hold up after two and half years of Trump.
“Certainly, with the president, I don’t sense he’s anywhere closer to that kumbaya moment,” Feaver told the Post. “It would probably take movement on both sides, but I don’t see much evidence the White House wants to move.”
The Post adds, “Some of the never Trumpers expressed hope that the blacklist will erode around the edges; even if the White House refuses to hire them, they said, perhaps a determined Cabinet secretary can bring them on.”
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