1. A brief thread on why we should not panic but should worry, even be a bit...alarmed.

I've been speaking with former Trump Administration officials and with other former senior national security types who remain plugged in to the Pentagon.
2. They think we'll most likely "be ok;" but they are worried about what one called the three I's:
The Insurrection Act.
and (White House and civilian DOD leadership) Insanity.
3. Iran.

January 3 is the anniversary of Suleimani's killing, followed shortly by the end of the 40-day mourning period for Fakhrizadeh. So there is the prospect of Iranian retaliation, to which a U.S. response (or conceivably preemptive action) would certainly be legitimate.
4. Iran (cont'd)

But of course there's also the possibility of the Trump Administration using an Iranian provocation to launch an action that's way beyond proportionate, as well as the possibility of simply inventing a predicate for U.S. action.
5. Iran (cont'd)

This obviously wouldn't stop the transition or even endanger it; but it would create an atmosphere of crisis and even chaos in which the second possibility--the Insurrection Act--might seem more doable.
6. The Insurrection Act.

As one former national security official put it to me, when you play out this scenario it's hard to see how it works--but even trying to invoke the Insurrection Act would create a full-blown constitutional and governmental crisis.
7. The Insurrection Act (cont'd)

The only reasons to worry about this are that Trump apparently has mention this to allies in recent days, and, I'm told, the senior civilians at DOD have been asking around--just in case!--about how it would work.
8. The Insurrection Act (cont'd)

And of course Trump is encouraging his supporters to come to D.C. on January 6; it's not at all unlikely there'll be turmoil, disturbances, perhaps violence, which would obviously be Trump's excuse for trying to invoke the Act.
9. The Insurrection Act (cont'd)

There have been preparations for such an eventuality among senior uniformed officials and others at the Pentagon who are on the side of constitutional government, and the reaction would be serious and even dramatic. And I think Trump knows that.
10. Insanity.

This the third "I" is kind of a catchall, meant to capture the real craziness of many of those with whom Trump is consulting, but also of many of the newly installed Trump civilians in the Pentagon.
11. Insanity (cont'd)

And even though the Trump appointees are serving in "acting" capacities, and are totally out of their depth, they do have actual authorities that are worrisome. Their orders could be resisted or appealed or leaked or challenged as unlawful--but...
12. Insanity (cont'd)

...as one person put it to me, these civilian officials do have levers to pull or at least try to pull, and that's worrisome.

"Let us therefore have that salutary fear of the future that makes one watchful and combative..."
-- Tocqueville, DA II 4.7


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More from @BillKristol

31 Dec 20
1. Goodbye, 2020

In Memoriam
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Read 7 tweets
22 Dec 20
1. A possible additional data point: Derek Lyons is Trump's staff secretary. After working on the Jeb! campaign (!), he joined the Trump White House on day one, working for Rob Porter. Lyons succeeded Porter as staff secretary in Feb. 2018, became part of Trump's inner circle...
2. ...and was going to become domestic policy chief in May of this year, but was stopped by a revolt by America First purists. He got the consolation prize of adding Counselor to the President to his staff secretary job, joining Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway who had that title.
3. He's traveled a lot with Trump, and has been in the inner circle (for example, he was at last Friday's meeting in the Oval Office). But at the beginning of last week, he announced he was leaving before the end of the year--surprising for someone who seemed such a loyalist.
Read 6 tweets
22 Dec 20
1. This thread is based on recent conversations with people whose information and judgment I trust, who in turn have spoken candidly with Trump appointees still on the inside.

Here's a question: Why did Trump and Barr, when they negotiated Barr's departure, settle on Dec. 23?
2. It could, obviously, be kind of random--a date picked last week to allow Barr to get things in order, an accommodation of Barr's family schedule, etc. But it could also be that Barr very much wanted to get out before Dec. 24, and/or that Trump wanted him out by then.
3. One obvious possibility discussed in the White House: Trump has spoken about a bunch of pardons on Christmas Eve. Some of the names may have been too much for Barr--so they agreed on his departure on Dec. 23.
Read 13 tweets
16 Dec 20
I guess we could call ourselves Democratic-Republicans?
1. We’re Republicans or ex-Republicans who are pro-democracy.
2. We want to advance what’s best in both existing parties.
3. The original Democratic-Republican Party was founded by Jefferson and Madison, and was successful.
FYI, and giving credit where it’s due: I think it was @Kasparov63 who suggested this name a couple of years ago in an Upper West Side coffee shop.
Also FYI: Many fine organizations, institutions, and conspiracies have originated in Upper West Side coffee shops.
Read 6 tweets
11 Nov 20
Another thread.
More on DOD, based on further conversations with well-informed former Trump officials:
1. NSA Robert O'Brien also key; he urged removal of Esper, putting in Miller and Patel.
2. Having total loyalists not just at Sec Def but at DOD Policy and Intel is a big deal.
3. Re Miller, Patel, Tata, Cohen-Watnick, Ellis (new general counsel at NSA): "None is remotely qualified for the job he holds." But that's doesn't matter to WH. Along with Ratcliffe at DNI, we're getting close to Trumpist control or attempted control of the "power ministries."
4. Who knows whether intentions are mostly petty, or domestic election interference, or unimpeded decisions in foreign policy (latter could range from military force to military withdrawals, and from pro-Putin to pro-MBS). But, I'm told, both Esper and Milley are truly worried.
Read 4 tweets
11 Nov 20
Short thread.
FWIW, my takeaway from conversations last night with recent DOD senior officials:
1) DOD under Esper has pushed back more than many people realize against many Trump ideas, ranging from use of troops here at home, to Afghan withdrawal, to military options re Iran.
2) Chris Miller's career has been entirely in counter-terrorism, and Trump knows him in that context from his job at NSC. "Totally out of his depth" for broad responsibilities as Sec Def--but if Trump wants to launch more Suleimani-like raids, it would sense to have Miller there.
3) Kash Patel will be most powerful person in building as COS to Sec Def. A Trump loyalist, he helped engineer these changes, and is very close to WH Trumpists like McEntee and Meadows. Patel a more effective operator than Miller, will effectively be running civilian side of DOD.
Read 4 tweets

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