Trump 'prepares to fire' national security adviser HR McMaster

Andrew Buncombe

The White House is trying to downplay mounting speculation Donald Trump is set to fire his national security adviser - a move that would mark just the latest in a series of oustings and departures at the highest ranks of his administration.

For several days, there have been reports Mr Trump was considering getting rid of former general HR McMaster, who has served as national security adviser after his predecessor, Micheal Flynn, was forced to resign just days into the job in February 2017. There were also reports Mr Trump might fire his Chief of Staff, John Kelly.

On Thursday night, the Washington Post said Mr Trump had made up his mind to get rid of Mr McMaster but that the move would not happen immediately. Other reports said Mr Kelly had been told his job was safe.

Hours afterwards, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, claimed reports about Mr McMaster’s imminent demise were wrong. “Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen HR McMaster - contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC,” she said on Twitter.

On Friday, speculation mounted about possible moves being afoot as Mr Trump held a lunch with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

Ms Sanders told reporters in Washington that Mr Kelly told aides earlier in the day there were “no immediate personnel changes at this time and that people shouldn't be concerned”.

She added: “We should do exactly what we do every day and that's come to work and do the very best job we can.”

If the President were to fire the 55-year-old former army general, it would be the latest shake-up involving some of the highest figures within the Trump administration. On Tuesday, Mr Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the President signalled in recent days that the changes at the top of his government were not over.

“I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want,” Mr Trump told reporters after firing Mr Tillerson and replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Along with Mr Tillerson, Steve Bannon, Sally Yates and John McEntee, a personal aide to the President, have been fired. A much longer list of people, one that includes Sean Spicer, Andrew McCabe, Hope Hicks, Dina Powell, Gary Cohn and KT McFarland, resigned from the administration, as it appeared to swing from one crisis to the next.

Citing five people with knowledge of the plans, the Post said Mr Trump was considering several possible replacements for Mr McMaster, including former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and Keith Kellogg, the Chief of Staff of the National Security Council.

The newspaper said Mr Trump was willing to take his time making the changes to avoid humiliating Mr McMaster and carefully choose a strong replacement.

It added that Mr Trump never personally gelled with Mr McMaster and the President recently told Mr Kelly that he wanted him replaced. It said he believed Mr McMaster was too rigid and that his briefings took too long and seemed irrelevant.