Joe Lieberman '64 praises appointment of KT McFarland (spouse of Alan McFarland '64) as Deputy National Security Advisor
Donald Trump adds K.T. McFarland to his national security team
The New York Times
November 25, 2016
[Alan McFarland '64 commented: "Joe Lieberman is a long, dear, and valued friend, who survived Directed Studies with me and all of Yale Law School when it was changing the world of law. We've also shared the great adventure of two subsequent marriages — and more children. Far more blessings than divots. He's been a great gift to our Republic. And to me." Joe replied: "It all brings a big smile to my face and heart. There are no friends like old friends and Alan is about as 'old' and dear as I have. And he, like me, married up."]
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump filled two lower-profile but influential White House staff jobs on Friday, while his high-profile candidate for secretary of housing and urban development, Ben Carson, continued to deliberate about whether to join the administration.
Mr. Trump offered the housing job this week to Mr. Carson, a neurosurgeon who challenged him for the Republican presidential nomination. But despite expectations of a Friday announcement, Mr. Carson was “still pondering,” said a friend, Armstrong Williams. The president-elect’s aides said Mr. Trump did not plan any more cabinet-level announcements until next week.
For the politically sensitive post of White House counsel, Mr. Trump chose Donald F. McGahn II, a Washington election lawyer who pushed to deregulate campaign finance and election laws. The counsel’s job may be even more daunting than it was in previous administrations, given Mr. Trump’s far-flung business empire, with which he shows no inclination toward severing ties.
For the equally critical job of deputy national security adviser, Mr. Trump chose K. T. McFarland, an aide in three Republican White Houses and a Fox News commentator. She has been highly critical of President Obama’s approach to combating terrorism — a view that aligns her with Mr. Trump’s choice for national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.
Joe Lieberman, 1964
In rolling out the appointments, the Trump transition team lined up testimonials from big names in both parties.
Former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman ['64], regarded as a foreign-policy hawk, praised Ms. McFarland, 65, as “one of our country’s most experienced, informed and wise foreign-policy and national-security experts.” Mr. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat turned independent, was a Yale College and law school classmate of Ms. McFarland’s husband, Alan R. McFarland ['64], a well-known investment banker.
Alan McFarland, 1964
Edwin Meese III, an attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, said Mr. McGahn, who was the general counsel for the Trump campaign, had “dealt ably with the intersection between politics, government ethics and the rule of law.” C. Boyden Gray, a White House counsel to the elder President George Bush, said Mr. McGahn was well suited to the job because of his “serious prior relationship with the president” and his “working knowledge of government ethics and election law.”
A brash, guitar-playing conservative born in Atlantic City, Mr. McGahn learned the fine points of election law from a longtime Republican expert in the field, Benjamin L. Ginsberg.
At the Federal Election Commission, where he served five years, including terms as chairman and vice chairman, Mr. McGahn was a powerful voice of opposition to what he often saw as intrusive government meddling in elections. He also spent nearly a decade as the general counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Ms. McFarland’s national-security experience dates to the Nixon administration, when she was an aide to Henry A. Kissinger. She was a staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, a speechwriter for Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, and the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
She is a familiar presence on Fox News, where she has harshly criticized Mr. Obama over his handling of the Islamic State. “The president has stuck his head in the sand,” she said in September 2014 after the group had kidnapped and executed two American journalists.
“To me, it’s a dereliction of duty,” she added. “What was this president doing? Well, he was playing a lot of golf this summer, but he clearly was not attending to the defense of the United States.”
In 2006, Ms. McFarland mounted a bid for the Republican nomination for the Senate in New York. The mayor of Yonkers, John Spencer, defeated her and went on to lose to the Democratic incumbent, Hillary Clinton. During the campaign, Ms. McFarland came under scrutiny for gilding her résumé — claiming, for example, that she had been the highest-ranking woman in the Pentagon when, in fact, two other women outranked her.
The deputy national security adviser has one of the most demanding jobs in the West Wing, coordinating meetings of deputies and principals to formulate policies and organizing the vast flow of paperwork from the agencies to the White House.
“That job is the ultimate policy nuts-and-bolts and paper-pushing job,” said Peter D. Feaver, who served in the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. “It is all about reviewing policies, framing disagreements and teeing up decisions. It is supposed to be the place where bad ideas die, and so places a premium on analytical insight.”
“Her early work in the Reagan administration is more important than her recent work on TV,” he said of Ms. McFarland.
As Mr. Trump fills key staff positions, some of his cabinet decisions have become complicated. The search for a secretary of state has bogged down as rival factions argue for Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and a Trump loyalist, and Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee, who stridently opposed Mr. Trump during the campaign.
Among those raising questions about Mr. Giuliani is Vice President-elect Mike Pence, according to people in the Trump transition who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters. Mr. Pence, they said, has favored Mr. Romney in internal discussions. Reince Priebus, whom Mr. Trump named as chief of staff, has said positive things about Mr. Romney but has been more circumspect, and has tried to offer perspective to Mr. Trump on both men.
But other people, including Kellyanne Conway, who managed the campaign, have raised questions about Mr. Romney’s loyalty after he became one of the most vocal critics of Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Mr. Trump has remarked to people that he was surprised by the intense resistance to Mr. Romney.
Mr. Romney and Mr. Trump spoke again in recent days, according to people briefed on the deliberations, and plan to speak again early next week. But some of Mr. Romney’s allies, who have no interest in seeing him apologize for criticizing Mr. Trump during the campaign, say privately that his chances of being chosen are dimming.
With Mr. Carson, the delay appears to be less about fissures within the Trump camp than within Mr. Carson himself.
“He’s still pondering, believe it or not,” Mr. Williams, his friend, said on Friday. “Dr. Carson is very methodical, just like he’s going through a surgery, planning every aspect.”
Mr. Carson endorsed Mr. Trump after ending his own campaign. But he has appeared conflicted about joining the administration. Last week, Mr. Williams was quoted as saying his friend was reluctant to take a job for which he had no experience and that “could cripple the presidency.”
Mr. Carson, however, then took to Facebook, where he has built much of his grass-roots political following, to say his reasons for declining a cabinet job had been misreported. He was on Facebook again on Wednesday, explaining his change of heart.
“After serious discussions with the Trump transition team,” Mr. Carson wrote, “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone.”