It’s only been six months since Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster became President Trump’s national security adviser, but white supremacists’ effort to oust him has already begun.
Two senior White House aides told Politico that McMaster, who replaced Michael Flynn in February, is becoming an “increasingly volatile” presence in the White House. Trump had reportedly been considering reassigning McMaster to oversee U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. But the aides claimed that newly-appointed Chief of Staff John Kelly gave McMaster assurances this week that his job was safe, prompting McMaster to purge the staff roll of those who had espoused troubling views widely embraced by white supremacists. (Editor’s note: ThinkProgress no longer uses the term “alt-right” to describe racists.)
Unsurprisingly, they quickly began criticizing McMaster.
“MCMASTER PURGES NSC STAFFER FOR WARNING OF ISLAMIST-LEFTIST THREAT,” conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich tweeted on Wednesday, before proceeding on a tirade about the national security adviser.
Cernovich subsequently claimed that McMaster had “been leaking information to David Petraeus” and “had direct contact with George Soros.” Those claims, plus at least a dozen more, were all published on McMasterleaks.com, a website Cernovich created. The site features an anti-Semitic illustration of Soros and McMaster by right-wing cartoonist Ben Garrison, according to Newsweek.
On Twitter, Cernovich kept the party going. “McMaster’s butler’ [Army intelligence officer] Joel Rayburn is running off the books intelligence operation against Trump loyalists,” he claimed. “Joel Rayburn is spying on people including me, but McMaster will not investigate leaked transcripts. Says it all.” Rayburn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a YouTube video, Cernovich also accused McMaster of being a “Deep State plant” who was “intent on replacing Trump loyalists with Deep State operatives.”
“He needs to be removed immediately,” Cernovich said.
Cernovich wasn’t alone in stirring the pot. Alex Jones, the founder of conspiracy website InfoWars, got in on the action Thursday, tweeting that McMaster was “targeting long-time Trump loyalists who have been at odds with the career government holdovers.” That same day, Fox News host Sean Hannity tweeted his dismay over reports that McMaster had allowed former National Security Adviser Susan Rice to keep her top secret security clearance.
“What is this? Does H.R. McMaster need to go? Susan Rice? Omg,” he wrote. Hannity also repeated Cernovich’s claim that “deep state” operatives—supposedly inside McMaster’s office—had leaked Trump’s call transcripts.
On the fringe, internet conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec wondered aloud whether “deep state” operatives in the government—of which he claimed McMaster was a part—were utilizing staff intake forms to target staffers for dismissal.
“Two White House interns recounted how other employees with the Presidential Personnel Office…threatened to blacklist them from the White House internship program if they have posted anything from Yiannopoulos, Jones, or Infowars on their personal social media accounts,” Posobiec wrote in a Medium post on Friday, citing a line in the internship program paperwork that requested an applicant’s social media handles. He also claimed that McMaster had close ties to “NeverTrump megadonor” Paul Singer, and that the staff purge was somehow related.
The backlash to McMaster’s sudden decision to clean house isn’t entirely unprecedented. Many Republicans have had a hard time fitting in with the Trump administration’s more radical loyalists. Both former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and outgoing Press Secretary Sean Spicer were long suspected of being too “moderate” for Trump’s liking and subsequently became targets of conspiracy theorists like Cernovich outlets like Breitbart. Even in Congress, Republican members frequently find themselves the target of the white supremacists’ ire whenever their stance departs slightly from Trump’s; most recently, many targeted Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who had voted no on the GOP’s ACA repeal bill and whom Trump had previously said was “not a war hero.”
“I’m pretty sure that God is punishing him,” one 4chan user wrote in the “Politically Incorrect” right-wing message board, referring to McCain’s recent cancer diagnosis. “God made it pretty clear that he supports New Right now.”
That McMaster has incurred the wrath of such trolls for supposedly being part of a “deep state” anti-Trump movement, then, is unsurprising. If people like McCain and Priebus are targeted over mundane administrative and policy-making decisions, it’s safe to assume white supremacists sees McMaster’s staff purge as all-out war.