Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Trump Loves CFR's President

Donald Trump is not the biggest fan of think tanks, but he does have affection for at least one think tanker: Richard Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Reuters has previously reported this:
Asked who he trusts on national security, Trump had warm words for three men with world views that differ from one another, and who diverge sharply on some key issues from Trump himself. They are former diplomat Richard Haass and retired U.S. Army officers Gen. Jack Keane and Col. Jack Jacobs.
Haass is a centrist foreign policy thinker and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank seen as a fixture of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. The State Department's policy planning director at the time of the Iraq invasion, he wrote later that he was largely against the war.
A spokeswoman for Haass, Iva Zoric, said that he briefed Trump on foreign policy in August 2015. In a tweet late on Thursday, Haass wrote: "I do not endorse candidates. What I have done is offered to brief all candidates, & have briefed several, D(emocrat) & R(epublican) alike."

When recently asked by Fareed Zakaria about working in a Trump Administration, Mr. Haass declined to answer directly, saying that CFR has offered briefings to all of the presidential candidates and many have taken the think tank up on its offer.  Mr. Haass added that he spent about one hour together with Mr. Trump during their August 2015 meeting.

As Think Tank Watch has previously reported, Donald Trump has been consulting with think tank scholars for months.  Is this how Trump sees think tank land?

In early March 2016, a number of scholars, including think tankers, penned an open letter to Trump in opposition of his presidency.

That letter has 120 signatories, including Robert Zoellick of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), David Adesnik of Foreign Policy Initiative, Michael Auslin of American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Robert Blackwill of CFR, Daniel Blumenthal of AEI, Max Boot of CFR, Ellen Bork of Foreign Policy Initiative, Anna Borshchevskaya of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Joseph Bosco of Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and many others.

So basically, the entire conservative think tank establishment is against Trump, leaving only slim pickings in the think tank world.  That is probably why on March 21, when Trump revealed part of his foreign policy team, there were few mainstream think tankers to speak of on the list.  Of course, there was Walid Phares (a former senior fellow at the conservative think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies), George Papadopoulos (former researcher at the Hudson Institute), and Joseph Schmitz (who has ties to the Center for Security Policy).

However, Mr. Trump just met with Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and others at the Washington law firm of Jones Day in Washington, DC.  DeMint and staffers at the Heritage Foundation have reportedly met with numerous candidates in the past year, including current and former 2016 presidential candidates.

Here is what a Heritage spokesman said:
Heritage spokesman Wesley Denton stressed that DeMint’s role in the meeting was restricted to discussions about policy and avoided more political topics.
“As a section 501(c)(3) organization, Heritage cannot participate in any political campaign in support of or in opposition to any candidate for public office,” Denton said in an emailed statement.

The article also notes that  the Heritage Foundation's lobbying arm (Heritage Action) has reportedly expressed the desire to work with Trump "to advance its policy goals" if he wins the Republican nomination and November’s general election.

Also, with the help of the Heritage Foundation, Trump has been making a list of Supreme Court nominees he would choose if he becomes president.

In related news, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has recently announced his national security team.  It is heavy with think tankers from conservative think tank outfits.