When it comes to the National Security Council, even a deeply divided Washington has generally agreed on two things. The first is that the staff serves at the president’s pleasure. The second is that the NSC has grown far too large over the past 20 years, bloated by the demands of presidents and forever war. Despite this agreement, however, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien’s recent downsizing of the staff has rightly caused unease.
Critics worried not just about the timing of the cuts but their targets, which suggest that O’Brien’s reforms had less to do with making government better than with making it purer.
The NSC’s downsizing appears to be part of Donald Trump’s wider revenge campaign against what the president has reportedly called “snakes” in Washington, and it reveals not just how much and how long the president has been intent on purifying the government, but also how much Trump has changed the way Washington works.