As his campaign navigates a tough stretch, Donald Trump has adopted some of the trappings of a more traditional presidential candidate: meeting with Republican Party officials, adding staff, even announcing a cadre of foreign policy advisors rather than the go-it-alone approach he had favored when it came to issues abroad.
But as ever with Trump, even these straightforward political acts are not without controversy. The advisors he has enlisted appear to have spent little to no time as policymakers, and of those who have served in the military, few have top-level experience. One has been consistently condemned by Muslim rights groups and another was investigated while working as the Pentagon’s inspector general.
Trump has defended his choices, saying Monday at a campaign rally that most so-called experts have done more harm than good.
“The experts are terrible,” he said in La Crosse, Wis. “Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have. Look at the mess. Look at the Middle East. If our presidents and our politicians went on vacation for 365 days a year and went to the beach, we’d be in much better shape right now in the Middle East.”
So who are some of the people Trump is listening to instead? Here’s a glance:
Kellogg served for nearly three decades in the Army until his retirement in 2003. Since then, Kellogg has served on a number of boards, including at GTSI, which primarily provides computer software to government agencies.
From 2005 until 2009, he was an executive vice president at CACI International, a Virginia-based intelligence consulting firm that was embroiled in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal prior to his arrival there. Kellogg had little to do with the company’s cleanup as he was primarily focused on research and tech systems. A lawsuit brought by prisoners against the firm was eventually dismissed.
Page, an investment firm managing partner, wrote a bizarre blog post last year, ostensibly about U.S.-Russia relations, but comparing the U.S. to slaveholders and citing the Kanye West track “New Slaves.” In the song, West notes that after consistent mistreatment, slaves were bound to eventually “wild out,” and Page wrote that other countries would similarly go rogue should the U.S. continue to act as the world’s policeman.
Papadopoulos served as a policy and economic advisor to Ben Carson, who notably struggled with domestic and foreign policy issues during his failed presidential run. Before that Papadopoulos was a consultant at a London-based oil and gas company. He’s a director at the London Centre of International Law Practice. In its mission statement, the group views global issues with a “promotion of peace,” which falls into accord with Trump’s noninterventionist approach. He graduated from DePaul University in 2009.
Phares, who served as a foreign policy aide to Mitt Romney in 2012, is perhaps the most controversial of Trump’s advisors. He was the subject of a 2011 Mother Jones story that said he has ties to a right-wing Lebanese militia accused of committing war crimes against Muslims during that country’s bloody 15-year civil war. Phares did not respond to requests for comment about the story. Officials at the Council on American-Islamic Relations have condemned Phares – like Trump – for his comments about Muslims. Phares is a professor at the National Defense University in Washington. He’s also a regular on Fox News and tried to tamp down Trump’s calls to reinstate the torture of terrorism suspects after last month’s bombings in Brussels.
“Mr. Trump, because we are in a political season, he’s making those statements, but when he will come to the White House … then he’s going be tasking experts to answer that question, and I’m not sure that the experts are going to recommend any form of torture,” Phares said on NPR.
Schmitz had a rocky tenure as the Pentagon’s inspector general from 2002 until 2005, during the runup to and early years of the Iraq war. Schmitz is alleged to have “slowed or blocked investigations of senior Bush administration officials, spent taxpayer money on pet projects and accepted gifts that may have violated ethics guidelines,” according to a Los Angeles Times investigation in 2005. Amid the allegations, Schmitz resigned and took a position with the parent company of notorious defense contractor Blackwater.
Harrell oversaw combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of his three decades in the Army and retired in 2008 as deputy commanding general for the Army Special Operations Command.
Kubic served for nearly 30 years in the Navy, including helping rebuild schools and hospitals in Iraq as commander of the Naval Construction Division.
“I’ve been up here since the early days of the war, and every day, every week the country returns to normal,” he told CNN in 2004 as he praised the U.S. efforts to rebuild the country, a comment that predated the bloodiest years of sectarian violence in Iraq during the war and the consistent failure of the U.S. rebuilding efforts.
Kubic now owns his own engineering firm, which has consulted with the U.S. government on diplomatic facilities in Kabul, Karachi and Bangkok.
Mizusawa has the most decorated military career of Trump’s advisors. He was awarded a Silver Star, the third-highest military decoration, for his service during the Korean War. He ferried a Soviet defector to safe ground while under fire from 30 attacking North Korean soldiers, according to the Pentagon.
“He personally led the defector to safety while under fire and deliberately, at great risk to himself, exposed himself to the enemy in front of his own troops,” the Pentagon said.
In 2010, he ran in a GOP primary for a congressional seat in Virginia. He lost the five-way primary.
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