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Trump Appoints Michael Flynn, Mike Pompeo To Key National Security Posts

Nov 18, 2016
Originally published on November 18, 2016 4:17 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The Trump administration named three top positions today. We'll hear more about Trump's choice for attorney general in a moment. For national security adviser, the president-elect chose Lieutenant General Michael Flynn who was fired by President Obama from his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And Kansas Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo will direct the Central Intelligence Agency. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: General Flynn made his name as a crack army intelligence officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. But things did not go smoothly after President Obama put him in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012. Two years later, amid sharp differences over Islamist insurgencies and a reportedly chaotic management style, Flynn was out. Though a registered Democrat, Flynn joined the Trump campaign. And at this year's GOP convention, he let loose against what he called the last eight years of Obama-Clinton failures.

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MICHAEL FLYNN: Such as bumbling indecisiveness, willful ignorance and total incompetence that has challenged the very heart and soul of every American and singlehandedly brought continued mayhem, murder and destruction into our neighborhoods and onto the world streets.

WELNA: And Flynn did not hesitate to join the chanting against Hillary Clinton.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Lock her up. Lock her up.

FLYNN: Lock her up. That's right.

WELNA: None of this bodes well for the nation's security, says Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He says the national security adviser should be cool-headed and above politics.

ADAM SCHIFF: We have a president-elect who I think is a fairly impulsive person. And in a role of national security adviser you want someone who's steady and works well in a collaborative process with others in the national security infrastructure. That is not a good description of Mike Flynn.

WELNA: There are also questions about Flynn giving an interview to RT, the Kremlin's propaganda network, after sitting beside Russian President Vladimir Putin last December at RT's gala anniversary dinner. Still, in an interview with NPR earlier this year, Flynn said Washington should be wary of Moscow.

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FLYNN: We need to have a strategic relationship - doesn't mean friendship. It just means a mutual respect because we are two big nuclear nations who still have capabilities to destroy each other. And they represent a threat to our way of life.

WELNA: Flynn won't need Senate confirmation to be national security adviser.

Kansas Republican Mike Pompeo will to head the CIA. A former Army officer with a Harvard law degree who served six years in Congress, Pompeo has friends on both sides of the aisle. One of them is Congressman Schiff.

SCHIFF: He can be very partisan when he wants to be. And we had strong differences over Benghazi, where he was among the most zealous on the Select Committee. But I have respect for him. And I think he will listen to others. And I look forward to working with him.

WELNA: Pompeo is also known for accusing Muslim clerics on the House floor shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing of failing to condemn those attacks.

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MIKE POMPEO: It casts doubt upon the commitment to peace by adherents of the Muslim faith. This is utterly unacceptable. It is dangerous. It must end.

WELNA: Many Muslim leaders in the U.S. had, in fact, already condemned those attacks. Jon Soltz, an Army veteran who heads the group VoteVets, is dismayed by Pompeo's nomination.

JON SOLTZ: He stirs the pot, and it's hate rhetoric. And, you know, it's one thing to say it as a member of Congress from Kansas, that's bad enough. It's another thing to say it when you are the director of the Central Intelligence Agency that controls executive operations throughout the world.

WELNA: Pompeo appears likely, though, to be confirmed by a Republican-run Senate. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.