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McMaster Is A Solid Choice For National Security Adviser, Rep. Schiff Says


Donald Trump has a new national security adviser. He is Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's also an author, an academic. And his appointment is winning bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill, including from our next guest, Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California. He's on the line. Congressman, welcome back to the program.

ADAM SCHIFF: It's great to be with you, David.

GREENE: So you're happy with this choice?

SCHIFF: I am happy with the choice. I think he's a very bright man, has a lot of integrity, certainly very outspoken. And I'll tell you about the first time I met him because it was so startling to me. I was in Afghanistan doing oversight on problems they were having in the rule of law and corruption. And during the meeting with General McMaster, one of the colonels made a remark that he considered disparaging of the Afghans, suggesting that there was some innate tendency in the Afghan personality towards corruption.

And General McMaster dressed him down in a way that I had never seen in a meeting before. Usually when there's a disagreement, I presume they wait until after I'm out of the room to do that. But he did not wait. He's a very outspoken personality.

GREENE: Steve Bannon - you mentioned President Trump's chief strategist in the White House. I - you know, McMaster wrote a book, like, two decades ago, "Dereliction Of Duty," which looked at how the generals during the Vietnam War - the feeling he had was that they knew how to win but they were being undermined by the civilian leadership. And you tweeted yesterday that McMaster wrote the book on the importance of standing up to the president of the United States, may need to show the same independence here. What exactly do you mean?

SCHIFF: Well, for example, I would hope that if General McMaster had been present when they were coming up with the executive order that he would have been willing to speak out and say, this is going to be counterproductive.

GREENE: You're talking about the order on banning people from certain countries from coming into the country, into the U.S.?

SCHIFF: Exactly. Exactly. You know, I would hope that and expect that he'd be outspoken and say, you know, this would be counterproductive. This is the impact it will have. If you have to do this, this is the way you need to do it so that we don't offend the allies that we're going to depend on. You know, he's still not going to be giving the orders. The president will. But he will, I would hope and expect, express his opinion very forcefully. And that's what we're going to need. If I have a reservation...

GREENE: Go ahead.

SCHIFF: ...It's that I think the president would have been perhaps better served by someone with experience in the National Security Council as a mediator, bringing together various secretaries to essentially negotiate the best policy outcome. That's not his background, but he may very well be capable of doing it.

GREENE: Yeah, this is a job where you bring in, you know, bring lots of different opinions together and then present sort of a summary to the president of the United States with your own recommendation. You're saying you worry he might not have those skills.

SCHIFF: Well, we don't know. You know, I think that given this administration is lacking in people that have experience with dealing with the interagency process, having someone with that background I think would have served the president well. But, you know, compared to many other choices, frankly, like John Bolton, I was thrilled that he went with General McMaster.

GREENE: Congressman, in just the short time we have left, so many battles over confirmations. It's been, you know, a lot of partisanship in Washington. Is there a feeling in both parties like this feels good to actually be coming around and all agreeing on a presidential pick?

SCHIFF: Well, I think, you know, people want the presidency - even if they don't like this particular person, they want the presidency to be successful because it's necessary for the country. And certainly in the era of national security we want on both sides of the aisle a functional, not dysfunctional, National Security Council. We want people making good decisions. We want one that will prepare the president in the best way that they can.

You know, ultimately, it's the president who makes the decisions and we, you know, succeed or fail based on the president. But we want him to have the best team in place as possible, and I think this appointment will give at least some additional comfort that he'll have good people around him.

GREENE: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, thanks so much.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.