Here's the 'deep state' memo that blew up the NSC

© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

The memo at the heart of the latest blowup at the National Security Council paints a dark picture of media, academics, the "deep state," and other enemies allegedly working to subvert U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a copy of the document obtained by Foreign Policy.

The seven-page document, which eventually landed on the president's desk, precipitated a crisis that led to the departure of several high-level NSC officials tied to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The author of the memo, Rich Higgins, who was in the strategic planning office at the NSC, was among those recently pushed out.

The full memo, dated May 2017, is titled "POTUS & Political Warfare." It provides a sweeping, if at times conspiratorial, view of what it describes as a multi-pronged attack on the Trump White House.

Trump is being attacked, the memo says, because he represents "an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative." Those threatened by Trump include "'deep state' actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans."

The memo is part of a broader political struggle inside the White House between current National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and alt-right operatives with a nationalist worldview who believe the Army general and his crew are subverting the president's agenda.

Though not called out by name, McMaster was among those described in the document as working against Trump, according to a source with firsthand knowledge of the memo and the events. Higgins, the author, is widely regarded as a Flynn loyalist who dislikes McMaster and his team.

"It was about H.R. McMaster," the source said. "So, when he starts reading it, he knows it's him and he fires [Higgins]."

The story of the memo's strange journey to the Oval Office captures the zeitgeist of what has become the tragicomedy of the current White House: a son trying to please his father, an isolated general on a mission to find a leaker, a right-wing blogger with a window into the nation's security apparatus, and a president whose closest confidante is a TV personality.

The result is an even wider rift between the president and his national security advisor, marking what may be the beginning of the end of the general's tenure, and a radical shift of power on the NSC.

The controversy over the memo has its origins in a hunt for staffers believed to be providing information to right-wing blogger Mike Cernovich, who seemed to have uncanny insight into the inner workings of the NSC. Cernovich in the past few months has been conducting a wide-ranging campaign against the national security advisor.

"McMaster was just very, very obsessed with this, with Cernovich," a senior administration official told FP. "He had become this incredible specter."

In July, the memo was discovered in Higgins's email during what two sources described to Foreign Policy as a "routine security" audit of NSC staffers' communications. Another source, however, characterized it as a McCarthy-type leak investigation targeting staffers suspected of communicating with Cernovich.

Higgins, who had worked on the Trump campaign and transition before coming to the NSC, drafted the memo in late May and then circulated the memo to friends from the transition, a number of whom are now in the White House.

After the memo was discovered, McMaster's deputy, Ricky Waddell, summoned Higgins, who was told he could resign - or be fired, and risk losing his security clearance, according to two sources.

Higgins, who agreed to resign, was escorted out of the building. He later learned from his colleagues still at the NSC that his association to this now-infamous memo was the reason he was removed.

Following Higgins's departure, McMaster set out to clean house, a source close to the White House said - getting rid of NSC staffers linked to the memo, perceived as loyal to his predecessor, Michael Flynn, or simply those with whom he'd butted heads over foreign policy. Among those fired was Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the NSC's top intelligence official, and Derek Harvey, who handled the NSC's Middle East portfolio.

In the meantime, however, the memo had been working its way through the Trump White House. Among those who received the memo, according to two sources, was Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr., at that time in the glare of media scrutiny around his meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, gave the memo to his father, who gushed over it, according to sources.

In a comedy of errors, Trump later learned from Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and close friend of the president, that the memo's author had been fired. Trump was "furious," the senior administration official said. "He is still furious."

The memo lays out what it described as a concerted campaign to undermine the president.

"The administration has been maneuvered into a constant back-pedal by relentless political warfare attacks structured to force him to assume a reactive posture that assures inadequate responses," it reads. "The president can either drive or be driven by events; it's time for him to drive them."

The purpose of the memo, said a source familiar with the document, was to educate others in the White House about just what the president is allegedly up against.

"The memo maybe reads a little crazy, sure, but it's not wrong and Rich isn't crazy," an administration official said.

Many inside the White House had only seen the first page or two of the memo - or had only read the excerpts published in the Atlantic, which first reported the existence of the memo, several sources said.

The memo's repeated references to the Muslim Brotherhood - which is grouped among "key international players that includes the European Union and the United Nations - surprised few inside the NSC familiar with what had been a Flynn obsession. "Oh look, it's the newest member of the Muslim Brotherhood," was a common joke among those critical of Flynn loyalists, and what they regarded as a conspiracy theory, a source close to the NSC said.

This 3,500-word memo was written in a personal capacity, according to a source familiar with its drafting. The source described it as a "technical assessment" of the current political situation, and said it was never disseminated from the NSC in any official manner, but shared with personal contacts from the Trump campaign.

"While opposition to President Trump manifests itself through political warfare memes centered on cultural Marxist narratives, this hardly means that opposition is limited to Marxists as conventionally understood," the memo reads. "Having become the dominant cultural meme, some benefit from it while others are captured by it; including 'deep state' actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans."

"It's not wrong per se," said another official. "Actually, it's not wrong at all. The not-wrong part is just, well, buried a bit I guess by some of the wackier parts."

The memo calls out those pushing for rights "based on sex or ethnicity," which is a "direct assault on the very idea of individual human rights and natural law around which the Constitution was framed." It also says that "transgender acceptance" is "denying a person the right to declare the biological fact of one's sex."

Contacted by FP, Higgins declined to comment on the memo or his departure from the NSC.

The recent NSC shake-up appears to go beyond concerns about the memo. The recently ousted NSC staffers had been brought in by Flynn, who resigned for allegedly lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the substance of a December phone call he had with a Russian official.

Flynn is now under investigation for, among other things, failing to report income for lobbying on behalf of Turkey shortly before he became involved in the campaign.

The elimination of Higgins, Cohen-Watnick, and Harvey has helped McMaster assert control of the NSC, which was staffed during the early days of the administration by those loyal to Flynn and Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist.

Late last week, McMaster also planned to put at least four other NSC staffers on the chopping block, but was prevented from doing so by newly installed Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to two sources. All but one of those staffers had ties dating back to the campaign or transition.

A source close to McMaster denied those planned firings.

The White House press office did not respond to FP's request for comment. A NSC spokesman declined to comment, citing a policy against speaking about internal personnel issues.

Despite Higgins's firing, McMaster's difficulties inside the White House aren't going away anytime soon - though he might.

McMaster "doesn't really have any allies," said a source familiar with the NSC staff. "It doesn't seem as though he has the ear of the president, which is obviously essential to his survival."

The memo:

POTUS & POLITICAL WARFARE by Rich Higgins

BACKGROUND.The Trump administration is suffering under withering information campaigns designed to first undermine, then delegitimize and ultimately remove the President. Possibly confusing these attacks with an elevated interplay of otherwise normal D.C. partisan infighting and adversarial media relations, the White House response to these campaigns reflects a political advocacy mindset that it is intensely reactive, severely under-inclusive and dangerously inadequate to the threat. If action is not taken to re-scope and respond to these hostile campaigns very soon, the administration risks implosion and subsequent early departure from the White House.

This is not politics as usual but rather political warfare at an unprecedented level that is openly engaged in the direct targeting of a seated president through manipulation of the news cycle. It must be recognized on its own terms so that immediate action can be taken. At its core, these campaigns run on multiple lines of effort, serve as the non-violent line of effort of a wider movement, and execute political warfare agendas that reflect cultural Marxist outcomes. The campaigns operate through narratives.

Because the hard left is aligned with Islamist organizations at local (ANTIFA working with Muslim Brotherhood doing business as MSA and CAIR), national (ACLU and BLM working with CAIR and MPAC) and international levels (OIC working with OSCE and the UN), recognition must given to the fact that they seamlessly interoperate at the narrative level as well. In candidate Trump, the opposition saw a threat to the "politically correct" enforcement narratives they've meticulously laid in over the past few decades. In President Trump, they see a latent threat to continue that effort to ruinous effect and their retaliatory response reflects this fear.

INTRODUCTION. Responding to relentless personal assaults on his character, candidate Trump identified the players and the strategy:

  • "The establishment and their media enablers will control over this nation through means that are very well known. Anyone who challenges their control is deemed a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe, and morally deformed." - President Trump, Oct 2016
Culturally conditioned to limit responses to such attacks as yet another round in the on-going drone from diversity and multicultural malcontents, these broadsides are discounted as political correctness run amuck. However, political correctness is a weapon against reason and critical thinking. This weapon functions as the enforcement mechanism of diversity narratives that seek to implement cultural Marxism. Candidate Trump's rhetoric in the campaign not only cut through the Marxist narrative, he did so in ways that were viscerally comprehensible to a voting bloc that then made candidate Trump the president; making that bloc self-aware in the process. President Trump is either the candidate he ran as, or he is nothing.

Recognizing in candidate Trump an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative, those that benefit recognize the threat he poses and seek his destruction. For this cabal, Trump must be destroyed. Far from politics as usual, this is a political warfare effort that seeks the destruction of a sitting president. Since Trump took office, the situation has intensified to crisis level proportions. For those engaged in the effort, especially those from within the "deep state" or permanent government apparatus, this raises clear Title 18 (legal) concerns.

DISCUSSION.

The Opposition. While opposition to President Trump manifests itself through political warfare memes centered on cultural Marxist narratives, this hardly means that opposition is limited to Marxists as conventionally understood. Having become the dominant cultural meme, some benefit from it while others are captured by it; including "deep state" actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans. Through the campaign, candidate Trump tapped into a deep vein of concern among many citizens that America is at risk and is slipping away. Globalists and Islamists recognize that for their visions to succeed, America, both as an ideal and as a national and political identity, must be destroyed. Atomization of society must also occur at the individual level; with attacks directed against all levels of group and personal identity. Hence the sexism, racism and xenophobia memes. As a Judeo-Christian culture, forced inclusion of post-modern notions of tolerance is designed to induce nihilistic contradictions that reduce all thought, all faith, all loyalties to meaninglessness. Group rights based on sex or ethnicity are a direct assault on the very idea of individual human rights and natural law around which the Constitution was framed. "Transgender acceptance" memes attack at the most basic level by denying a person the right to declare the biological fact of one's sex. When a population has 2 + 2 = 5 imposed on it, there are many that benefit:

  • Mainstream Media - The principle mechanism for implementing narratives.
  • The Academy - Academia has served as a principle counter-state node for some time and remains a key conduit for creating future adherents to cultural Marxist narratives and their derivative worldview.
  • The Deep State - The successful outcome of cultural Marxism is a bureaucratic state beholden to no one, certainly not the American people. With no rule of law considerations outside those that further deep state power, the deep state truly becomes, as Hegel advocated, god bestriding the earth.
  • Global Corporatists & Bankers - Exploitation of populations, unfettered by national protections and notions of personal morality and piety.
  • Democratic Leadership - The democratic leadership has been a counter-state enabler that executes, sustains, and protects cultural Marxist programs of action and facilitates the relentless expansion of the deep state.
  • Republican Leadership - More afraid of being accused of being called a racist, sexist, homophobe or Islamophobe than of failing to enforce their oaths to "support and defend the Constitution," the Republican Establishment accepts and enforces cultural Marxist memes within its own sphere of operations. In doing so, knowingly or not, it becomes an agent of that. These "conservatives" become increasingly indistinguishable from their democratic counter-parts save that they misrepresent themselves to their constituents. Lacking the discernment to recognize their situation, they will work with globalists, corporatists, and the international financial interests and will likewise service the deep state. These establishment Republicans are the hard left's designated defeat mechanism in the destruction of the old regime as well as the American ideal. Because candidate Trump publicly exposed them for their duplicitous activities, they are at risk as long as Trump can turn on them and are, therefore, bitter foes. Candidate Trump's success remains an ongoing existential threat to establishment Republicans.
  • Islamists - Islamists ally with cultural Marxist because, as far back as the 1980s, they properly assessed that the hard left has a strong chance of reducing Western civilization to its benefit. Having co-opted post-modern narratives as critical points, Islamists deploy these narrative to strategically blind and then control US decision makers. This is by design and purposeful. "By their own hands!" has been the declared strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood since 1991. This strategy seeks to divide American society against itself with the forced imposition of Islamist objectives on one half of American society by the other half. Once a society has been effectively atomized, the population will have lost its faith in the old order, detest those who reduced it, and divide along the lines of narrative adherence. This is the intended outcome of hostile information cum political warfare campaigns and today we see their effects on American society.
Complicating the current situation, many close to the president have pushed him off his message when he was candidate Trump thus alienating him from his base thereby isolating him in the process. When President Trump is not candidate Trump, he becomes dangerously exposed. While the base that elected candidate Trump identified with his vision, they are only Trump's insofar as he holds to the vision that made him president.

Political Warfare Attacks - A Primer. As used here, "political warfare" does not concern activities associated with the American political process but rather exclusively refers to political warfare as understood by the Maoist Insurgency model. Political warfare is one of the five components of a Maoist insurgency. Maoist methodologies employ synchronized violent and non-violent actions that focus on mobilization of individuals and groups to action. This approach envisions the direct use of non-violent operational arts and tactics as elements of combat power. In Maoist insurgencies, the formation of a counter-state is essential to seizing state power. Functioning as a hostile competing state acting within an existing state, it has an alternate infrastructure. Political warfare operates as one of the activities of the "counter-state" and is primarily focused on the resourcing and mobilization of the counter state or the exhaustion and demobilization of the targeted political movement. Political warfare methods can be implemented at strategic, operational, or tactical levels of operation.

Political warfare is warfare. Strategic information campaigns designed to delegitimize through disinformation arise out of non-violent lines of effort in political warfare regimes. They principally operate through narratives. Because the left is aligned with Islamist organizations at local, national and international levels, recognition should be given to the fact that they seamlessly interoperate through coordinated synchronized interactive narratives.

Cultural Marxism - A Primer. While the attacks on President Trump arise out of political warfare considerations based on non-kinetic lines of effort (as discussed below), they operate in a battle-space prepared, informed and conditioned by cultural Marxist drivers. In practical terms, the political warfare assault on President Trump cannot be separated from the cultural Marxist narratives that drive them. From an operational preparation of the environment perspective, President Trump is operating in a battle-space that reflects the left's vision.

As used in this discussion, cultural Marxism relates to programs and activities that arise out of Gramsci Marxism, Fabian Socialism and most directly from the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt strategy deconstructs societies through attacks on culture by imposing a dialectic that forces unresolvable contradictions under the rubric of critical theory. The result is induced nihilism, a belief in everything that is actually the belief in nothing.

That post-modern (diversity/multiculturalism) narratives seeks to implement cultural Marxist objectives can be demonstrated by reference to founding Frankfurt School theorist Herbert Marcuse's repurposing of the term tolerance. In a 1965 paper, Marcuse defined tolerance as intolerance; said it can be implemented through undemocratic means to stop chauvinism (xenophobia), racism, discrimination; and should be extended to the left while denied to the right:

  • "The realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed."
  • "Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc." (8-9)
  • "Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: ... it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word." (12)
It is through such post-modern constructs that interoperable narratives are established among various left-wing groups as well as between them and Islamist groups at all levels. For example, from the 2001 Conference of Foreign Ministers at Bamako, Mali, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) declared its commitment to fight racism and xenophobia and then declared Islamophobia a "contemporary form of racism":
  • In this context, the World Conference urges all states . . . take all necessary measures to combat hatred, discrimination, intolerance and acts of violence, intimidation and coercion motivated by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance particularly against Islam
  • Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance which display an increasing trend, in their most subtle and contemporary forms, constitute a violation of human rights. 3. Contemporary forms of racism are based on discrimination and disparagement on a cultural, rather than biological basis. In this content, the increasing trend of Islamophobia, as a distinct form of xenophobia in non-Muslim societies is very alarming.
That the OIC made these claims as part of its planned inputs to the United Nation's "Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance" further demonstrates the coordinated and interoperable nature of these narratives at international levels in international forums.

As cultural Marxist narratives intensify, they are to be further operationalized in the form of hate speech narratives. Hate speech narratives are non-random, coordinated, and fully interoperable escalations of cultural Marxist memes. Key international players include the European Union, the UN, and the OSCE, the OIC and the International Muslim Brotherhood. Hate speech memes are structured, coordinated, and implemented through these same international forums. They involve close coordination with media and social media and include the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) narratives. David Shipler's book Freedom of Speech provides a road map for how hate speech narratives are to be structured, deployed and enforced.

Battlespace. These attack narratives are pervasive, full spectrum and institutionalized at all levels. They operate in social media, television, the 24-hour news cycle in all media, and are entrenched at the upper levels of the bureaucracies and within the foreign policy establishment. They inform the entertainment industry from late night monologues, to situation comedies, to television series memes, to movie themes. The effort required to direct this capacity at President Trump is little more than a programming decision to do so. The cultural Marxist narrative is fully deployed, pervasive, full spectrum and ongoing. Regarding the president, attacks have become a relentless 24/7 effort.

While there is certainly a Marxist agenda and even Islamist motivations that must be seriously addressed in their own right, these motivations alone seem inadequate to explain the scope and magnitude of the effort directed against the president. The economic drivers behind the Marxist and Islamist ideologues are enormously influential and seek to leverage these ideological movements for their own self interests. While beyond the actual scope of this document, the benefactors of these political movements include; Urban Real Estate who depend greatly on immigrant tenants, International Banking who seeks to maintain US debtor status so as to control the application of American power, and elements of the business sector that depend upon immigrant labor or government infrastructure. The overall objective of these economic forces is the forced urbanization of the populace, thereby necessitating a larger, more powerful government. In summary, this is a form of population control by certain business cartels in league with cultural Marxists/corporatists/Islamists who will leverage Islamic terrorism threats to justify the creation of a police state.

Adversary Campaign Plan. Political Warfare has been described as "propaganda in battledress." The effort directed at President Trump is executed along one overt, as well as two covert, lines of effort:

  • The overt line of effort is PUBLICITY. Publicity is the straightforward projection of a case that builds a picture in the audience's mind designed to garner support. It is facts without context and information the adversary wants the audience to possess that creates an impression and sets conditions. It seeks to establish good will and receptiveness to additional inputs.
  • There are two covert lines of effort: PROPOGANDA and INFILTRATION/SUBVERSION.
  • Propaganda is the deliberate direction, even manipulation, of information to secure a definite outcome. It is an attempt to direct the thinking of the recipient, without his conscious collaboration, into predetermined channels that are established in the Publicity line of effort. It is the unwitting conditioning of the recipient by devious methods with an ulterior motive that seeks to move them incrementally over time into greater belief and acceptance of message transmitted in the Publicity line of effort.
  • Infiltration and subversion operate internal to the targeted organization in order to inform, target, coordinate, and amplify the effects of the publicity and propaganda. Both operate to gather intelligence, obstruct legitimate courses of action, provide inside information, and leak sensitive information that undermines the leadership and suppresses the morale of friendly elements.
  • Infiltration of political and social groups within a target state is done for the purpose of extending counter-state influence and control. The endgame is concealed and may involve illicit activities.
  • Subversion undermines or detaches the loyalties of significant political and social groups within the target state and transfers political and/or ideological loyalties to the counter-state. As the counter-state forms, a counter-elite of influential individual and key leaders within the target state will later facilitate the legitimacy and permanency of the new regime.
Political warfare employs both publicity and propaganda. It recognizes no intrinsic virtue in the news but rather envisions it as a mechanism to exploit and build up support. From a political warfare perspective, control of the news cycle is the most potent means of attracting and building up a favorable audience. As it relates to the news cycle, publicity and propaganda can be merged to form a "pseudo-publicity" that is presented as news in furtherance of sustaining pseudo-realities maintained by cultural Marxist memes. Pseudo-publicity treatment of President Trump dominates the news cycle. The current campaign against President Trump operates in the following manner:

The Meta Narrative. Meta narratives seeks to delegitimize President Trump, his administration, and the vision of America he projected as a candidate. With cultural Marxist memes serving as the backdrop, President Trump is to be relentlessly characterized as unfit through the use of supporting narratives acting to move unwitting populations to belief in the meta narrative. Hence:

  • "President Trump is illegitimate"
  • "President Trump is corrupt"
  • "President Trump is dishonest"
Note that the twitter accounts and mainstream media personalities pushing this narrative have seen their audience numbers rise greatly in the past 6 months. This is a direct result of the supporting and backdrop narratives channeling individuals to this meta-narrative.

Supporting Narratives. Meta-narratives are supported by an ongoing series supporting-narratives that can be swapped out as circumstances warrant. It is important to recognize that these stories do not have to be true, valid or accurate to serve their purpose. Over time, deserved or not, the cumulative effect of these supporting narratives will result in a Trump fatigue. From a political warfare perspective, President Trump's inability to meet this challenge will cast him as a weak failed leader. The current list of supporting narratives include:

  • "Russia hacked the election" - illegitimate
  • "Obstruction of Justice" - corrupt
  • "Hiding Collusion" - dishonest
  • "Putin Puppet" - treasonous
Backdrop Narratives. The backdrop to the meta and supporting narratives are cultural Marxist memes designed to sustain a general sense of loathing of President Trump and the America that elected him. Hence:
  • "[meta] President Trump is illegitimate, [supporting] he was elected because of Russian hacking, [backdrop] and besides, he a racist, sexist xenophobe."
Adversaries utilize these interlocking narratives as a defensive political and information warfare screen that silences critics and smears supporters of President Trump. When people in the media question the behavior, actions and decisions of the Trump Administration's opponents, they are immediately said to be "working for the Russians" or "supporting Russian propaganda." Individual Americans who support the President are deemed "deplorable" and "racist."

End State.Attacks on President Trump are not just about destroying him, but also about destroying the vision of America that lead to his election. Those individuals and groups seeking the destruction of President Trump actually seek to suffocate the vision of America that made him president. Hence, the end state is not just a delegitimized, destabilized, immobilized and possibly destroyed presidency; but also a demoralized movement composed of a large enough bloc to elect a president that subsequently become self-aware of its own disenfranchisement.

CONCLUSION.

The recent turn of events give rise to the observation that the defense of President Trump is the defense of America. In the same way President Lincoln was surrounded by political opposition both inside and outside of his wire, in both overt and covert forms, so too is President Trump. Had Lincoln failed, so too would have the Republic. The administration has been maneuvered into a constant back-pedal by relentless political warfare attacks structured to force him to assume a reactive posture that assures inadequate responses. The president can either drive or be driven by events; it's time for him to drive them.

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