Brace for impact, America.
President-elect Donald Trump wants his national security adviser to be a retired intelligence officer who has called Islam “a cancer” and flew to Moscow last year to dine with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a black-tie gala.
He wants the U.S. Department of Justice to be headed by an Alabama senator who was, in 1986, deemed too racist for a federal judgeship.
Trump would also hand over leadership of the country’s spy agency to a Tea Party Republican who favours reviving mass surveillance programs.
Three high-profile picks — Michael Flynn for national security adviser, Jeff Sessions for attorney general, and Mike Pompeo for CIA director — are sure to give the White House a shakeup.
Here’s what you should know about the conservative loyalists tapped to be in the new Trump administration.
Michael Flynn, national security adviser
Flynn, a retired three-star general, is a former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency. The decorated soldier, who has expressed an openness to using torture, is expected to make defeating terrorism his top priority.
In his book Field of Fight, he asserts that Western powers are locked in “world war” against radical Islamist militants. He was reportedly slammed as “right-wing nutty” in personal emails by former secretary of state Colin Powell and has frequently ventured into outright Islamophobia.
“Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL. Please forward this to others,” he tweeted on Feb. 26, including a link to a YouTube video that makes the unsubstantiated claim that Islam “wants 80 per cent of humanity enslaved, or exterminated.”
Flynn’s shaky hold on the truth was a source of derision during his time heading up the Defence Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama. Before the 57-year-old registered Democrat was sacked in 2014, reportedly due to his chaotic management style, underlings had taken to mocking his iffy pronouncements as “Flynn Facts,” according to the New York Times.
Last year, Flynn further raised eyebrows when he accepted an invitation to a lavish ceremony in Moscow hosted by the Russian propaganda media outlet Russia Today. Flynn admitted he accepted payment for appearing.
The Kremlin later used Flynn in propaganda materials, posting a photo of him dining next to Putin on the government’s website, celebrating Russia Today’s 10th anniversary.
During the election campaign, Flynn led chants of “Lock her up,” firing up Trump supporters demanding that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton be prosecuted and jailed over her use of a private email server.
Trump’s statement on Flynn: “General Flynn is one of the country’s foremost experts on military and intelligence matters and he will be an invaluable asset to me and my administration.”
Jeff Sessions, attorney general nominee
An early Trump supporter, the 69-year-old southerner from Selma, Ala., is a four-term Republican senator and former prosecutor, as well as one of the most unrelentingly conservative voices in the upper house.
Over his 20-year career there, the mild-mannered U.S. army veteran has become a respected and well-liked member of the Senate.
He also has a history of being linked to racist remarks. Accusations of racism blocked his nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986.
Sessions reportedly called a white civil-rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race” for representing black clients, slammed the NAACP as “un-American” and once addressed assistant U.S. attorney Thomas Figures as “boy,” according to testimony from the black lawyer.
In reference to the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions has said he thought the group was “OK, until I found out they smoked pot,” according to former colleagues who testified against his character in Republican-controlled Senate judiciary committee hearings.
Sessions denied he was a racist, claiming, “I am not insensitive to blacks.”
The Congressional Black Caucus is calling his nomination an “alarming” choice.
As the United States’ chief law enforcement officer, Sessions could be expected to bring hardline views on immigration. In 2014, the conservative publication National Review crowned him “amnesty’s worst enemy” over his consistent opposition to bills, including any pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Trump’s statement on Sessions: “He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great attorney general and U.S. attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”
Mike Pompeo, CIA director nominee
Pompeo graduated first in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and is an experienced hand on intelligence affairs, having served on the House Intelligence Committee.
The hawkish 52-year-old Tea Party Republican is in favour of mass surveillance, advocating for the revival of the bulk collection of metadata by the National Security Agency — a position that aligns with Trump’s.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed from January, he argued for the removal of Presidential Policy Directive 28, “which bestows privacy rights on foreigners and imposes burdensome requirements to justify data collection.”
He has called for the execution of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, whom he called a “traitor and a common criminal” for leaking classified information revealing the extent of the U.S. government surveillance programs.
The Kansan was appointed in 2014 to the House Select Benghazi Committee to probe the events around the 2012 terror attack in Libya. The attack resulted in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Pompeo emerged during the hearings as a particularly outspoken critic of Clinton’s handling of the situation while she served as secretary of state.
Breaking from Flynn, he has also had harsh words for Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, as well as the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
While he was not an early Trump backer, initially supporting Marco Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination, he eventually fell in line with supporting the billionaire.
Trump’s statement on Pompeo: “He will be a brilliant and unrelenting leader for our intelligence community to ensure the safety of Americans and our allies.”
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