On Wednesday September 18, President Donald Trump announced he would name Robert C. O’Brien as the new National Security Advisor. Ambassador O’Brien currently serves as the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. The latest news comes after President Trump narrowed his list for National Security Advisor to five people on September 17.
On September 10, Trump took to Twitter to announce he had asked for, and received, a letter of resignation from now former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Botlon resigned over strong disagreements between him and President Trump, as well as with other members of the administration. The two had strong disagreements on a number of security issues, the last one on Iran and Afghanistan, with Bolton’s opposition of a now-scrapped meeting between the president and the Taliban at Camp David being a “precipitating factor,” according to a Republican familiar with the subject.
Trump’s shortlist did not include two names that current and former Trump administration officials had previously said were in circulation: Iran policy chief Brian Hook and Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. According to The Washington Post, who spoke to administration officials who requested anonymity, the candidates Trump listed are all seasoned national security professionals with lower profiles compared to Bolton. The officials said this was by design, as the administration looks to solidify Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s role as the most influential Trump advisor.
Below is a brief description of the newly announced National Security Advisor and the former candidates up for the job.
On Wednesday September 18, President Trump announced he named Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien as his NSC pick. O’Brien currently serves as the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. In 2017, he was under consideration to serve as Secretary of the Navy. Previously, O’Brien served as Co-Chairman of the U.S. Department of State Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan under State Secretaries Hilary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice.
From 2008 to 2011, O’Brien was a presidentially-appointed member of the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which advises the federal government on issues relating to the trafficking of antiquities and other cultural items. In 2005, he served as a U.S. Representative to the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly where he worked with Bolton. O’Brien was a Senior Legal Officer for the UN Security Council commission and was a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve. He is a co-founding partner of Larson O’Brien LLP in Los Angeles.
Fleitz has been President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a D.C.-based think tank focused on foreign affairs—Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the organization as an extremist anti-Muslim hate group—since January 2019. He first joined CSP as a senior fellow in 2013, and in 2015 became senior vice president for policy and programs.
Prior to his return to CSP, Fleitz served as a Deputy Assistant to President Donald Trump and chief of staff to National Security Advisor John Bolton from April to October of 2018. After his appointment was announced, Fleitz received criticism for his connection to CSP and their track record of spreading anti-Muslim information. Although Fleitz tried to disassociate from the organization, his track record—including being one of 16 co-authors in a book that argues of a “secret plan of the Muslim Brotherhood to destroy Western civilization from within”—worked against him.
Fleitz has previously served in U.S. national security positions for 25 years with the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff. During his time at the CIA he served as a political analyst, military analyst, weapons of mass destruction analyst, and collection officer. From 2001 to 2006, Fleitz served as chief of staff to the Under Secretaries of State for Arms Control John Bolton and Robert Joseph.
He has written four books: Peacekeeping Fiascoes of the 1990s (2002); Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud (2016); Putin’s Reset: The Bear is Back and How America Must Respond (2016); and The Coming North Korea Nuclear Nightmare (2018), and has appeared in and written columns for media outlets such as Fox News—where he defended the anti-Muslim activists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller and far-right activist Cliff Kincaid.
Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty
Gordon-Hagerty is the current Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Prior to joining the Trump administration, she was president of Tier Tech International, a consulting company providing “professional expertise to prevent or effectively respond to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) terrorism on land or at sea worldwide.” She was also president and CEO of LEG, a consulting firm focused on national security issues.
From 1998 to 2003, Gordon-Hagerty was the Director of Combating Terrorism of the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. During her time at the Department of Energy, she was the Director of the Office of Emergency Response and also served as acting Director of the Office of Weapons Surety. Gordon-Hagerty began her career in government as a staff member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Kellogg is a retired Lieutenant General in the United States Army and currently serves as the National Security Advisor to Vice President Mike Pence. Kellogg has previously served as the Executive Secretary and chief of staff at the NSC and was acting National Security advisor in 2017 following the resignation of General Michael T. Flynn.
After the announcement that Pence would recruit Kellogg as his National Security Advisor, there were reports that several Senior White House staff didn’t know what Kellogg actually did during the 15 months he served as chief of staff at the NSC. Officials say that deputy executive secretary Megan Badasch did close to 100 percent of Kellogg’s functional executive secretary work when H.R. McMaster was advisor.
Kellogg has been with the Trump administration since he was named as a foreign policy advisor to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in March 2016. Once Trump won the presidency, Kellogg was in charge of the transition team for defense.
Kellogg served 36 years in the U.S. military: in the army in Vietnam, as a special forces officer in Cambodia, and during the first Iraq war as chief of staff for the 82nd Airborne Division. After his retirement, Kellogg joined the Oracle Corporation as an advisor to its homeland security division. In 2005 he joined CACI, a tech contractor, and in 2009 left and subsequently joined Cubic Defense, a defense contractor until he joined the Trump campaign team.
Major General Ricky L. Waddell serves as the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is the principal assistant to the Chairman and principal military advisor to the Secretary of State. Prior to his current role, Waddell served as deputy National Security Advisor under H.R. McMaster. Once Bolton took over, Waddell was out.
While McMaster was National Secretary Advisor, Waddell was supposed to replace Craig Deare as the Senior Director for the Western hemisphere at the NSC, but due to complications between McMaster and the Trump White House, this did not come to fruition.
Waddell has worked at the National Defense University (NDU), and has served in the U.S. armed forces. In his time in the armed service, Waddell rose to the level of major general. Waddell was the commander of the 76th Operation Response Command in 2015.
In his civilian career, Waddell spent 17 years working in South America, mostly in the energy and mining industries, living 12 of those years in Sao Paulo, Brazil.