With Flynn Out, Who Will Trump Pick To Be National Security Adviser?
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And it has been an extraordinary last 24 hours for the Trump White House. Yesterday morning, we were talking about how Michael Flynn had resigned as the president's national security adviser. And now comes this news - The New York Times reported late last night that President Trump's campaign, quote, "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials during the campaign."
We'll be talking through all of this this morning. And let's turn now to retired U.S. Army Colonel Peter Mansoor. He was a close military aid to General David Petraeus in Iraq. Petraeus is one of the people being considered for the job of national security adviser at the White House.
Colonel, good morning.
PETER MANSOOR: Good morning.
GREENE: So what do you make of these - bang-bang - two big stories in the Trump White House right now? And how big a deal is this?
MANSOOR: Well, it's astonishing for a campaign to have contacts with senior intelligence officials of another nation, a strategic adversary of the United States. And then for the incoming national security adviser to discuss sanctions that are being imposed on that country by the outgoing administration - you know, it's just breathtaking. But given what's happened in the last 26 days in this administration, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised.
GREENE: Do you have any idea why a presidential campaign or people involved in it would be having phone conversations with intelligence officials in another country like Russia, if that indeed happened?
MANSOOR: It boggles the imagination. I have no idea why they would do that, knowingly at least. And I think this calls, really, for a full-scale investigation. You know, the one arm of the U.S. government that has not been involved in investigating these allegations so far is Congress. And I think Congress probably needs to step up its game here.
GREENE: And those conversations are happening right now on Capitol Hill. Let's talk about this effort by the president, now, to fill this job that was vacated by Michael Flynn. How does all of this news change that? If you are someone considered for this job, what sorts of questions are you asking about this White House as you're considering?
MANSOOR: Well, if I were the candidate for national security adviser, which is a zero percent chance of that - but...
GREENE: (Laughter) OK, good to know. We can - we'll cross you off the list.
MANSOOR: (Laughter) Yeah. I would be more concerned about process here. I would be concerned about a competing center of power in Steve Bannon's alternate NSC - National Security Council. I...
GREENE: Now, some would say in the White House that it's not his NSC - that he's involved in it but he's not running the thing.
MANSOOR: Right. But he certainly has an alternate strategic initiatives group. And if I were the national security adviser, I'd say policy comes through here. I am the president's national security adviser. I should be the one that coordinates that policy. There shouldn't be a competing center of power in the West Wing.
And so I would want that assurance from the president so that we can get rid of the chaos that has gripped the National Security Council staff ever since the inauguration. That would be my primary worry. And then, after that, I would probably get assurances that the administration has come clean with everything it knows on its relationship with Russia.
GREENE: And briefly - it looks like, you know, General Petraeus; someone else being considered, Vice Admiral Bob Harward, acting national security adviser; retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg - people are suggesting that they're very different people than Michael Flynn.
MANSOOR: Yes, they are. For one thing, they were not involved in the campaign. They're very capable. I think Harward and General Petraeus are probably the two that would be tops on my list. And they both have advantages. Admiral Harward is well-known to Secretary Mattis, the defense secretary.
MANSOOR: And General Petraeus is very capable in his own right, so I think either would be a good choice.
GREENE: We'll have to stop there. Peter Mansoor on Skype with us - thanks so much for joining us.
MANSOOR: Thank you, David.
GREENE: He is a retired Army colonel who is now a professor of military history at The Ohio State University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.