The Corner

White House

Loyalty Tests May Hurt the Trump Administration

Though I hesitate to weigh in on inside-the-Beltway intrigue, I’ve been following the unceremonious firing of deputy national-security adviser Mira Ricardel with interest. The Wall Street Journal reports that First Lady Melania Trump played a central role in her removal, as her staff suspected Ricardel of leaving negative stories about Mrs. Trump and her team. It is worth noting, however, that as CNN reports, Ricardel had made enemies in part by clashing with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. According to CNN, “her disputes with Mattis preceded her time as deputy national security adviser, going back to the presidential transition when Ricardel sought to block Mattis from hiring certain people who had been critical of Trump or were viewed as insufficiently loyal to Trump.” One suspects that at least some of the people Ricardel successfully blocked from serving in the Pentagon are now cheering on the first lady for claiming her first scalp.

How is it that Ricardel managed to secure the position of deputy national-security adviser in the first place? Normally, you’d think that fact that Mattis didn’t hold her in terribly high regard would be an obstacle. Ricardel’s rise could be a testament to her prowess as a bureaucratic warrior. But it could also be a reflection of the fact that the Trump White House has had limited options to draw on. Many Republican foreign-policy professionals were deeply skeptical of Donald Trump during his campaign for the GOP nomination, and many of them continue to be wary. The result is that much of the party’s foreign-policy bench is either unwilling to serve or, for those willing to swallow their reservations, incapable of passing the loyalty tests established by Ricardel and others. Given the high turnover that’s characterized the Trump administration thus far, this could prove a big problem in the months to come.

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