Dead Drop: January 29

TWO OUT OF THREE: (Recently) Acting SECDEF Chris Miller told a reporter that when he took his job, he had three goals: “No military coup, no major war, and no troops in the street.” Well, two out of three is good in most sports. Who would have guessed that under a press-unfriendly Trump administration, that the Pentagon leadership would allow a journalist to embed with them to chronicle their last days in power?  It turns out the Acting SECDEF along with his chief of staff, Kash Patel, and acting intel guy Ezra Cohen-Watnick (who sometimes goes by “Cohen”) did just that.  The resulting story in Vanity Fair has accurately been described as “bonkers.” Among the killer quotes: Cohen-Watnik said, “The president threw us under the bus. And when I say ‘us,’ I don’t mean only us political appointees or only us Republicans. He threw America under the bus. He caused a lot of damage to the fabric of this country,” His angst had to do with the events of January 6th.  “Did he go and storm the Capitol himself? No. But he, I believe, had an opportunity to tamp things down and he chose not to.” Some of what was included in the story may be fodder for the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.  Ciralsky reports that President Trump told Miller prior to January 6th that DoD would need 10,000 troops to control the enormous crowd he was expecting.  Miller blew that off as presidential hyperbole. But when the rioting broke out, the Pentagon could not get through to the President.   While he wasn’t happy with the White House – Miller was also not high on the Pentagon. “This f—ing place is rotten. It’s rotten….When the system is weighted toward the Joint Staff and the geographic combatant commanders against civilian control, you know we’ve got to rethink this.” The article also confirms earlier reports of an aborted administration plan to oust CIA director Gina Haspel and replace her with Patel. Cohen-Watnick is quoted as saying: “The idea was to put Kash in as the deputy, which doesn’t require Senate approval, and then to fire Gina the next day, leaving Kash in charge…. Robert O’Brien, [Trump’s national security adviser], is the one who deep-sixed it.” There is a ton of wacky stuff in the article – which probably would have gotten more attention, had it not been quickly followed by a New York Times story  concerning White House discussions earlier this month to oust the Acting Attorney General and replace him with a loyalist who would be willing to twist the arms of the states to try to overturn the election.

CIRALSKY SOUND FAMILIAR?  You may remember that Ciralsky was once a CIA lawyer – who sued the Agency over an unsuccessful polygraph test.  As far as we know, he lost his suit, but he was still featured on CBS News’ 60 Minutes. The network liked him so much, they hired him and turned him into a journalist.  In any case, Ciralsky is not the kind of guy you would think the Pentagon leadership would pick to memorialize the end of their time in power.

Access all of The Cipher Brief’s national security-focused expert insight by becoming a Cipher Brief Subscriber+ Member.

Sign Up Log In