[President Trump] is trying to rerun the North Korea thing, to be as extreme as he can be up until the point of military action. But the big difference with North Korea is that his advisers then were worried he was going to war, so there was no danger of them pulling him in, whereas, in this case, his adviser wants to drag him in.
[Acting Defense Secretary] Patrick Shanahan is much weaker than Mattis and has no real desire to push back, and also will give the White House and the National Security Council what it wants in terms of exploring military options and generally not try to stonewall the White House...So I think that has changed the dynamic.
The whole thing is really weird...They’re not including the president of the U.S. [to the NATO ministerial summit] because they’re frightened of him and they’re trying to act like everything is normal, but it’s not...The elephant in the room — or besides the room — is Trump. Everyone will be monitoring their phones to see if there’s a tweet from across the road.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.
Over the arc of his presidency, Trump has shed himself of cabinet secretaries he doesn’t trust and surrounded himself with loyalists. That will continue and escalate. But the big problem is, he doesn’t know where he’s going.