President Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, might soon be back in the military, half a dozen defense and administration officials told CNN.
Trump and McMaster's strained relationship was not helped this weekend by the president's public criticism of the three-star general. "General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC, and the Dems," Trump tweeted. One Republican insider explained that the tension between the pair comes from a difference in "personality and style."
The White House would be in an awkward spot trying to oust McMaster, though, because of the turnover in the position already: Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is notably at the heart of the ongoing Russia investigation. Although Pentagon officials are reportedly looking for a possible four-star military job for McMaster that could be viewed as a promotion, "some defense officials caution that the president could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire," CNN writes.
While the reports could be nothing more than rumors, a person with knowledge of the situation summed up McMaster's standing: "He is safe until he's not." Jeva Lange
Rumors have been swirling about President Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's tense relationship practically since the former Marine Corps general was promoted to the role last July, but Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman writes that things have now reached a point where Ivanka Trump is "trying to figure out who replaces Kelly," one person familiar with the situation said.
Causing particular friction is the Mexico border wall, which Trump and Kelly have publicly disagreed over. Kelly told House Democrats last week that some of Trump's ideas were "uninformed" and have since "evolved," prompting Trump to respond that "the wall is the wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."
Privately, Trump hasn't appreciated the narrative of Kelly trying to smooth things over on his behalf. "I've got another nut job here who thinks he's running things," Trump allegedly complained to one friend, while another insider said Trump vented on the phone that Kelly "thinks he's running the show."
"The more Kelly plays up that he's being the adult in the room — that it's basically combat duty and he's serving the country — that kind of thing drives Trump nuts," one Republican insider said.
Virginia governor says Russia was helped by 'treasonous' Americans who gave 'these people a roadmap'
When former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate last week, he emphasized the importance of understanding that the Russian hack of the 2016 presidential election was done "with purpose ... with sophistication ... [and] with overwhelming technical efforts." Virginia's Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, has an additional suggestion to add to the list: that they did it with help on the inside.
"Treasonous" Americans aided Russia in "destabilizing our democracy," McAuliffe told Politico's "Off Message" podcast, which will be available Tuesday morning.
"Somebody had to give these people a roadmap," he went on. "So I believe somewhere in this, somebody was directing the Russians on whose names to use, what impact these certain people sending a memo would have on the American electorate. I mean, they just didn't sit over in some cubicle over there somewhere in Moscow and figure this out."
Pity the person who gets nominated by President Trump to fill the gaping, open role of FBI director. "That person will face a potentially brutal nomination hearing, as many Republicans and Democrats will use the hearings to vent their frustration over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections," Politico Playbook reports.
Unless, of course, that person happens to be a former colleague. New Hampshire media is buzzing that its former Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte, who narrowly lost her seat in November to a Democrat, could be on the short list for succeeding ousted FBI Director James Comey.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News that there are many good candidates for the role, but he considered a nomination of Ayotte to be an "excellent choice." Ayotte "does have a law enforcement background, having served as New Hampshire's attorney general before joining the U.S. Senate," NECN writes. "She has had a complicated relationship with Trump, first backing him and then backing away from him during her re-election campaign last year. But she worked closely with him to help usher Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch through the Senate confirmation process."
The underlying story, though, might be that Trump fired Comey without a replacement in mind. He is reportedly in the process of "soliciting suggestions," top Republicans told Politico. Jeva Lange
With Fox News in turmoil after the recent ousting of its biggest ratings star, Bill O'Reilly, a person familiar with private talks among media bigwigs says there is "serious" discussion of launching a rival conservative news network, Mediaite reports.
The new network would put "the old band" back together as a response to the perception that Fox is moving too far to the left. The "pitch is that the network could immediately reach at least 85 million homes," Mediaite writes.
There are certainly plenty of (out-of-work?) conservative powerhouses to pick from that could star on a new network, and perhaps even some executives from within Fox News who might be lured by the new opportunity. Could the new channel include stars like the ousted Bill O'Reilly, who didn't waste much time hitting the podcast waves after he was fired amid a sexual harassment scandal? Could Tomi Lahren, the conservative mega star, who was recently sidelined at The Blaze also take on a prominent role? [Mediaite]
Fox News founder Roger Ailes was ousted from the network last year after sexual harassment allegations; adding to the intrigue, New York's Gabriel Sherman reports that two people close to Ailes claim he is actively exploring a new TV venture. Read the full scoop at Mediaite. Jeva Lange
It took some time for Fox News' co-founder and acting CEO, Rupert Murdoch, to come around to President-elect Donald Trump. But come around he sure has, Gabriel Sherman writes for New York magazine. Fox insiders were reportedly shocked when the network announced Thursday that Megyn Kelly's primetime slot would be filled by Tucker Carlson, with one particular person in the know saying there was originally to be "a lot of experimenting" around who would fill the position, and that the leading candidates were all women.
A female anchor has held a primetime spot — between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. — at Fox News since 1996. But with Kelly's departure and Carlson's addition, the lineup is now entirely men, although Martha MacCallum will take over Carlson's old slot leading into the peak viewership hours at 7 p.m.
Some insiders say there could be more afoot than Carlson just being a ratings success, too. Carlson has long been friendly toward Trump:
Carlson's promotion is one sign of just how much Murdoch wants to appease Trump, Fox insiders say. Murdoch has been intent on forging a tight relationship with Trump since his victory, sources close to both men tell me. One longtime Murdoch confidante told me the two speak by phone at least three times per week. As I reported Tuesday, at Mar-a-Lago over the holidays Trump criticized Roger Ailes and lavished praise on Murdoch. And Murdoch has told Fox executives that Trump asked him to submit names for FCC commissioner. (A Trump spokesperson denied that.) Murdoch has allowed Sean Hannity to turn his 10 p.m. show into de facto infomercials for Trump. [New York]
Some onlookers are already bothered by the turn Fox News has taken. "I'm old enough to remember when Fox News was pro-American soldier not pro-anti-American leaker," former Fox News panelist Bill Kristol tweeted Thursday. Read Sherman's entire scoop at New York. Jeva Lange
Megyn Kelly's contract at Fox News will expire after the election, and the star anchor has publicly confessed that she doesn't know what's going to happen after that. "I've had a great 12 years here, and I really like working for Roger Ailes. I really like my show, and I love my team. But, you know, there's a lot of brain damage that comes from the job," she told Variety this spring.
Speculation about Kelly's next move is really ramping up now that Kelly has admitted she hung out at the CNNGrill in Philadelphia in the wee hours of Thursday morning, The Washington Post reports:
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) July 28, 2016
Politico also wrote that while she was there, Kelly apparently spoke with "CNN chief Jeff Zucker" — who does the hiring at CNN — as well as "Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, according to several tipsters." Kelly is in Philadelphia covering the Democratic National Convention for Fox News.
The Democratic rumor mill keeps on turning, but at least some 2016 speculation can be put on pause: While a "senior Democrat" told Buzzfeed News that former Vice President Al Gore was considering a presidential run — and that "they're getting the old gang together" — Gore's spokesperson went on record to tell Politico there that there is "no truth to it."
Gore is "laser-focused on solving the climate crisis," Betsy McManus, his spokesperson, said. Gore, who won the popular vote but lost the White House in 2000, hasn't run for office in 15 years, passing his time with projects like the 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, instead.
Additionally squashing any rumors, Mike Feldman, who worked as traveling chief of staff during Gore's 2000 presidential election campaign, agreed with McManus, telling Politico that if "the old gang" was truly getting back together, he's "insulted" he wasn't also invited.
"I just don't think this is on his mind," Feldman said.
Even so, Democratic strategist James Carville holds that "running for president is like having sex."
"No one did it once and forgot about it," he said. "If you can do it, you want to do it again, it's something you don’t get out of your system." Jeva Lange