From the Los Angeles Times:
As President Trump appears to lurch from crisis to crisis on the world stage, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have quietly maneuvered to constrain an impulsive commander in chief, the latest sign of a national security team that is increasingly challenging the president.
Officials say the two senior Cabinet officers have slow-rolled requests for options on a wide range of policy goals, including exiting the Iran nuclear disarmament deal, reacting to missile strikes into Saudi Arabia by Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, pressuring longtime ally Pakistan by cutting U.S. military aid, and possible limited airstrikes on North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure.
Trump is said to blame Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, bristling when his national security advisor has not presented the options he sought, or as quickly as he demanded them. That has given rise to multiple reports that McMaster could resign or be forced out in coming weeks, and added to the portrait of a White House in perpetual turmoil.
But when he walks into the Oval Office, McMaster is often caught in a carefully orchestrated manipulation by Mattis and Tillerson to slow the delivery of options they don’t want the president to take, according to two current White House officials and one former official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
“They are going to hide the ball from the president to keep him from doing stupid [stuff], there’s no doubt about it,” said another former official, a national security expert who served in the Trump administration transition and asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.
Other members of Trump’s national security team also have pushed back, increasingly in public, suggesting that some of the president’s top advisors have decided to speak out rather than acquiesce to what they see as false claims or dangerous policies.
In a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Feb. 13, six of the president’s hand-picked security chiefs — including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray — challenged or contradicted Trump’s stated views on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, the danger of Russian meddling in elections this fall, and whether a controversial GOP memo on surveillance was accurate.
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