Trump advisers resign over security concerns

By on 30/08/2017
US president, Donald Trump, has been accused of threatening "the security of the homeland" (Image courtesy: Michael Vadon).

Eight advisers to Donald Trump have resigned en masse, claiming that the US President’s actions have “threatened the security of the homeland”.

The advisers issued a joint resignation letter as they walked out of the 28-member National Infrastructure Advisory Council last week, warning that Trump has paid “insufficient attention” to growing cyber threats facing the US.

They also cite the President’s failure to single out neo-Nazis and white supremacists for condemnation following violent protests in Charlottesville and his rejection of the threat of climate change, IT news website Nextgov reported.

“The moral infrastructure of our nation is the foundation on which our physical infrastructure is built,” the letter obtained by Nextgov states. “The administration’s actions undermine that foundation.”

Charlottesville fall-out

The resignations follow Trump’s disbanding of two presidential business advisory councils from which some 20 corporate chief executives had stepped down in protest at his failure to clearly denounce white supremacist violence in the Virginia university town.

Trump made some of his most controversial remarks about the rally at a press conference on infrastructure reform earlier this month. Pressed as to whether he was putting the “alt left” and white supremacists on the same moral plane, Trump said: “I think there is blame on both sides.”

The advisers stressed in the letter that Trump’s actions threatening security included his remarks at the press conference.

“When asked about the horrific violence in Charlottesville, you failed to denounce the violence of hate groups, instead offering false equivalences and attacking the motives of the CEOs who had resigned from their advisory roles in protest,” the letter states.

Election hacking fears

The former advisers were especially critical of the Trump administration’s reluctance to strengthen the digital security of electoral systems.

“You have given insufficient attention to the growing threats to the cybersecurity of the critical systems upon which all Americans depend, including those impacting the systems supporting our democratic election process,” the letter states.

Trump has repeatedly questioned whether Russia tried to subvert the 2016 presidential election through a hacking campaign, as maintained by US intelligence officials.

Nonetheless, his homeland security secretary John Kelly had continued with reforms – launched under the Obama administration – designed to improve the cyber security of state and local election systems by designating them as critical infrastructure and providing federal services free of charge. These changes faced opposition from some members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, launched by Trump in May, who have dismissed claims of a Russian threat as a ploy for the federal government to intrude on states’ rights. Kelly left his homeland security role when he was appointed White House Chief of Staff on 31 July, replacing Reince Priebus.

Climate change denial

As well as condemning Trump’s response to Charlottesville, the letter criticises his actions on several other fronts. “Your decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, your intent to revoke flood-risk building standards and your many other actions to ignore the pressing threat of climate change to our critical infrastructure also point to your disregard for the security of American communities,” it states.

The bi-partisan National Infrastructure Advisory Council is tasked with advising the US President on the security of critical national infrastructure sectors and their information systems. Its members are drawn from academia, the private sector and government. The resigning council members include three officials from the Obama administration.

These are Cristin Dorgelo, chief of staff at the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and DJ Patil, chief data scientist to the White House.

The names of the eight advisers were removed from the membership page of the council’s website last week. The remaining council members have approved a report which warns that US infrastructure is in “a pre-9/11 moment” in terms of cyber security.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

5 Comments

  1. Victor Alessandro

    31/08/2017 at

    What slanted, one-sided reporting! Were the 8 people hired by the Obama Administration? If they really cared about the USA, why would they resign? What kind of person resigns from their job for reasons such as these? It’s suspect at best! The drivel about the President not responding appropriately in their eyes is just their opinion. If I recall correctly, President Trump initially “condemned the actions in the strongest possible terms.” I wonder what else is stronger than that?

    The political positioning of not calling out the organizations by names is just a cheap political ploy. A US President should not make judgments until all the facts are known. President Obama found this out the hard way on multiple occasions as evidenced by his misstatements in Ferguson, Baltimore, the Harvard break-in, etc. In each case President Obama was premature in making statements, and was proven wrong in each case. The media was mostly silent on these serious mimstake

    President Trump is certainly not perfect, but then neither is any leader. President Obama was far from perfect, and may go down in history as one of the worst Presidents of all time. It’s a serious negative on the world media that reporting standards are applied unequally based on the political views of the leader. I realize journalists are human beings as well with the same flaws, but a professional journalist should strive to be accurate, fair, objective and operate with professional integrity. Slanting the news based on one’s own political views does not meet this test.

    • Kevin Sorkin

      31/08/2017 at

      Thank you for your comment. In answer to your first question: we stated clearly in the article that three of the eight people resigning were Obama appointees, and even named them, their roles and organisations.

      Your other questions appear to be rhetorical. But it is not a reporter or editor’s job to censor articles on the basis that we disagree with the opinions expressed by people covered within the story; that would indeed be ‘slanted’ reporting. We are confident that a mass resignation from a panel such as this is a strong news story, and that it is important to report the individuals’ given reasons for resigning.

    • Nick

      31/08/2017 at

      Somehow, I was in the middle of typing a LONG comment, and the page refreshed for no reason and I lost it.

      I was just coming to defend this article, and kind of to break down everything Victor falsely said.

      I’ll sum it up instead because I don’t have the time to re-type all that, with links to other news stories and stats and all… Too bad. Anyway:

      Victor, you need to inform yourself a little bit better. What you said showed how little you know about every topic here. 1. His advisors were people like Elon Musk. What do they have to do with Obama? 2. Most people disagree with what you said about Obama being the worst or whatnot, and most evidence (good vs bad that he did) would also de-bunk that statement. You also said it in an unsubstantiated way, without reasoning. Did you oppose his work on the financial crisis? His amount of time spent on vacation? What is your problem with Obama? You didn’t actually state any reasons, but you somehow compared him to Trump in a way that makes it sound as though Trump is better… Which is quite literally impossible to argue at this point, especially so early on in his presidency (with so little positive results). Even if you compared their first 200 days or whatever side to side, you can’t argue that. That is a typical uninformed way to form an argument… So, at least use reasoning rather than just saying stuff and saying everyone else must be wrong. That certainly is no better than the problems you are decrying in the above journalism. 3. Following that… Everything you said was full of bias. Think about that. This article simply is saying what happened, which happens to be in opposition to Trump. It is not about Hillary, or Obama, so why would they just start calling out everyone else, or say something good about Trump when there is nothing relative to say about that? They did that with Obama too, and they usually focus on the person they are talking about. They don’t go on rants about the good, and bad, they usually focus on one or the other. There just happens to be few things you can say that are good about Trump, I mean seriously! When CNN said bad things about Obama, where were you? Not everything opposed to Trump is fake news you know… 4. You clearly did not read more than one Breitbart news headline to be able to justify Trump’s “condemnation” of the far-right protests. If you had done some more reading, you would know he said more than just that. If Trump saying something 5 years ago doesn’t matter (which is what many of his supporters try and say when regarding thigns like “grab em by the pussy”), then why do you use the only slightly good thing he said about it – which is also coincidentally in the past? 5. The examples of “Ferguson, Baltimore, Harvard break-in”… None of this made any sense. Ferguson was a perfectly fine response and no one thought much about it. Harvard break-in doesn’t even show any results on google. Seriously, where do you get your news? What’s the point of bashing news you don’t agree with? That’s called confirmation bias, and you are a victim Victor. Open you mind, your eyes, and do some reading. I wish you the best.

      PS. I respect global gov’t forum. I like how you guys cover issues internationally, and how you include stories about lesser known countries doing great things (like the Scandinavian ones, or Canada) and talk about free/open governments and such. This is actually not a common thing that I see, for you to focus on one person. But, I think it is perfectly justified seeing as this person holds the powerful position that he does and his abuse thereof. Kudos!

      Sincerely,
      Nick

      • Kevin Sorkin

        31/08/2017 at

        Thanks very much for your comment, and we’re sorry that the page refreshed and lost your work; thanks for trying again! As you say, we try to cover stories that our readers will think important, no matter what our view of them (for our opinions, we sometimes publish articles presented as Analysis instead). And whatever your view of him, there can be no doubt that President Trump is important.

  2. Mark

    31/08/2017 at

    Right on Kevin, don’t blame the messenger. And if anything, all the “slant” is coming from Victor.
    Now for some slant of my own, It’s quite revealing over the course of Trump’s presidency the number of resignations that have taken place. Pretty soon he will have no one left to carry out his dirty work…that’s the hope anyway. Or better yet, impeachment to stop the hemorrhaging before real damage has been done and has gone too far. Hopefully served cold with a familiar ironic statement of “Mr. Trump…You’re fired”

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