Jacob Heilbrunn

What now for the neocons in Trumpland?

Former State Department official Eliot A. Cohen is a prominent neoconservative who has led the ‘Never Trump’ faction of the Republican party. After Trump was elected, he suggested that younger Republican national security wonks might consider working for him. But it didn’t take long for Cohen to rescind that advice: ‘After exchange [with] Trump transition team, changed my recommendation,’ Cohen said on Twitter. ‘Stay away. They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly.’

The battle between Trump and the GOP national security establishment has now been joined. Trump’s principal opponents may not be Democrats, who are cooing over his talk of a massive infrastructure bill, but Republican hawks, who oppose his call for aligning America with Russia in the fight against terrorism. Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is declaring that Trump is a ‘natural ally’, but on Tuesday the Republican-led House of Representatives fired a preliminary shot at Trump, passing a bi-partisan bill called the ‘Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act’ that calls for sanctions on Syria, Iran and Russia for committing crimes against humanity.

At the same time, Senator John McCain, incensed by Trump’s phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin, issued a statement blasting Moscow. A détente with Russia, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, is ‘an unacceptable price for a great nation’. McCain added on Twitter, ‘When America has been at its best, it’s when we’ve stood w/those fighting tyranny—that’s where we must stand again’.

And just where does the president-elect stand? As always with Trump, his intentions remain murky. As Trump remains immured in his eponymous tower, his transition team is enmeshed in turmoil. It seems more intent on adhering to Trump’s credo of ‘You’re fired’ than to hiring staffers to fill the executive branch. Anyone associated with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is being purged from the campaign, including establishment types like Congressman Mike Rogers who has been advising the Trump team on national security.

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