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Trump names McGahn as counsel, McFarland to national security post

By Jennifer Jacobs and Toluse Olorunnipa Bloomberg

President-elect Donald Trump named Donald F. McGahn as White House counsel and Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland as deputy national security adviser, moves that add a lawyer seasoned in political law and another woman to the top ranks of his administration.

McGahn, a partner at the Jones Day law firm in Washington and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, had served as an adviser to Trump’s successful campaign for the presidency. His specialties include government ethics, the president-elect’s transition team said in a statement Friday announcing his selections.

“Don has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law,” Trump said in the statement. “He will play a critical role in our administration.”

A key part of McGahn’s role as White House counsel will be to help the real-estate developer navigate potential conflicts of interests between his businesses and his official role as president. Trump’s licensing deals and other business interests have drawn renewed scrutiny since he was elected president on Nov. 8, yet he said this week in an interview with the New York Times that as a sitting U.S. president, he “can’t have a conflict of interest.”

Neither of the positions filled on Friday requires confirmation by the Senate.

McFarland has a long record of national security experience, serving as deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in the early 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. McFarland also has worked as a national security analyst and a contributor to Fox News. She ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York in 2006.

“I am proud that KT has once again decided to serve our country and join my national security team,” Trump said in a statement. “She has tremendous experience and innate talent that will complement the fantastic team we are assembling, which is crucial because nothing is more important than keeping our people safe.”

McFarland has praised Trump for his instincts, saying they make up for his lack of experience in government and national security.

“Foreign policy, national security, defense is not the president-elect’s skill,” she said last week on Fox News. “He didn’t come into the job with a lot of experience and background in it but in talking about the issues, he gets right to the core.”

McFarland worked as an aide to then-National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. She helped write a groundbreaking speech in 1984 by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger that described U.S. policy on use of military force under Reagan and later became known as the Weinberger Doctrine.

In recent years, she has been critical of the Obama administration’s approach to foreign policy, accusing the president of a weak approach to terrorism and other global threats.

“The alternative to American leadership in the world is not some kumbaya world peace, global world order, like Obama says,” she said last year on the Fox Business Network. “It’s chaos, or it’s dictatorship.”

In 2013, after Obama opted against a military strike against the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpiles, McFarland wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved the credit for using diplomacy to stave off the attack. In a deal between the U.S., Russia and the Syrian government, chemical material was shipped out of Syria in 2014.

“The world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize,” she wrote on in September of 2013. “It turns out that leading from behind left a big opening up front. Putin stepped right in. And Obama still hasn’t figured it out.”

After extremists in Paris killed 130 people last January, McFarland called for stricter counterterrorism policies in the U.S., including “terrorist profiling.”

“We need to take a different approach to fighting terrorism than the one-size-fits-all, politically correct policy we have had in place for over a decade,” she wrote on last year.