Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey on Wednesday said that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s handling of some aspects of U.S. foreign policy outside formal channels reminded him of “some third world country.”
The retired general, who served as former President Bill Clinton’s drug czar, responded in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes to a report by the Intercept that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bragged to confidants that Kushner was “in his pocket” and had given bin Salman sensitive intelligence about his political rivals.
“Putting Jared Kushner, a 30-something person with no foreign policy or defense policy experience as a leading representative of the United States is simply outrageous,” McCaffrey said. “The officers of our government, under the Constitution, have to get confirmed by the Senate, whether they’re ambassadors or generals or senior officials of the government.”
McCaffrey said that “reading out the State Department and having one-on-one contact between Jared Kushner, by phone and in person, is a huge threat to a rational policymaking process.”
He said that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster “allegedly has been commenting on it” and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “was outraged.”
“It has just no precedent, in my view, in American government in modern times,” McCaffrey said.
Hayes mentioned another report, in the Daily Mail, that bin Salman bragged he’d gotten Tillerson fired.
“The other thing is, on foreign policy contacts, if you’re in Saudi Arabia, you never see a senior official without the U.S. ambassador present. You always want a notetaker there,” McCaffrey replied. “This kind of secretive, one-on-one, the son-in-law– It sounds like some third-world country.”
He said that Ivanka Trump undertook a similar one-on-one diplomatic mission and traveled to speak to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto without the U.S. ambassador present. It was not immediately clear what trip he was referencing.
“This is the personalization of a family business dealing with U.S. policy,” McCaffrey said.
McCaffrey wrote in a tweet last week that Trump “is a serious threat to US national security” and apparently “under the sway of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
Reluctantly I have concluded that President Trump is a serious threat to US national security. He is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks. It is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of Mr Putin.
— Barry R McCaffrey (@mccaffreyr3) March 16, 2018
He denied to make as strong a statement on Wednesday and instead said it was “unknowable” whether Russia has leverage on Trump.
“But,” McCaffrey added, “the only thing I would say, if I was the President’s lawyer, I would tell him, look, if you think they have video on you, audio, financial dealings that are outrageous, he’d better get it out now, because Putin will stick it to him prior to the next election or after he leaves office.”
McCaffrey said Trump’s policy decisions “are not explicable in terms of sensible, U.S. foreign policy.”
“He is supposed to defend our interests,” McCaffrey said.