Trump counters criticism of his national security adviser

Trump counters criticism of his national security adviser

(Andrew Harnik, AP)

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BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump has issued a defense of his national security adviser H.R. McMaster against criticism he's not supportive enough of Israel and is stifling conservative viewpoints.

Trump came out with a public endorsement late Friday. In a statement, Trump said: "General McMaster and I are working very well together. He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country."

McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, came under attack after the recent firing of White House intelligence adviser Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was a protege of Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Critics have accused McMaster of trying to remove conservative voices from Trump's national security team.

McMaster was also the subject of a widely circulated Facebook post by a Jerusalem Post columnist that called him "deeply hostile to Israel."

Trump's statement of support comes after a turbulent period at the White House and a major reshuffling of top staff. New White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, is now seeking to impose order on a chaotic West Wing.

Cohen-Watnick's departure came as part of a string of shake-ups at the White House and National Security Council. McMaster had sought to remove Cohen-Watnick in March when CIA leaders raised concerns about him. But Cohen-Watnick appealed to Trump's top advisers, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, who got Trump to intervene to save his job.

On Friday, Kushner also offered support for McMaster. Speaking to The New York Times, Kushner called McMaster "a true public servant and a tremendous asset."

Trump had recently pondered a different role for McMaster. In a recent Situation Room meeting, the president — who is frustrated by his options in Afghanistan — raised the idea of firing the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and replacing him with McMaster, according to officials with knowledge of the discussion.

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