National security adviser H.R. McMaster has quietly pulled in high-ranking officials from the Obama administration into senior positions on his staff, current and former administration officials told Conservative Review.
In recent months, McMaster has hired influential members of the Obama Pentagon. One of these individuals was assigned to boost the Iran nuclear deal with Tehran, while the other became a trusted aide to former defense chief Ash Carter.
The recent hires are Ylli and Ylber Bajraktari, Albanian-Kosovan brothers who elevated to the top of government in the Obama administration.
A 2016 Medium profile of the brothers describes the major influence they have had in crafting policies for the previous administration.
“I have never heard of a story of two brothers playing such a critical behind-the-scenes role at the Pentagon,” Carl Woog, a senior Obama NSC adviser, commented to Partnership for Public Service.
“Ylber travels with [Sec. Carter] to international destinations and attends all his Pentagon meetings on foreign policy matters,” the article said.
At the time, Ylber (pronounced ill-BEAR) was deputy chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Carter, where he helped develop the Obama administration’s foreign policy, focusing on Iran and Iraq. Ylber also worked on the administration’s highly controversial nuclear deal with the Tehran regime.
Ylli (pronounced ill-lee) served as a special assistant to the Obama Pentagon’s deputy secretary, Robert Work, and his job was to “make sure” that the top Obama officials’ “visions are being completed,” Ylli told Medium.
Less than four months after their glowing profile on Medium, Ylber and Ylli witnessed the election of Donald J. Trump. Since the Democrats were no longer in power, their bosses lost their powerful jobs in government.
But H.R. McMaster has recently adopted a good many Ash Carter protégés, bringing Obama administration officials back into power. At the same time, McMaster got rid of much of President Trump’s initial wave of hires upon entering government.
Yll now serves as a close confidant to McMaster, in a position described by a current officialas a gatekeeper to the national security adviser (comparable to the role of a chief of staff). Ylli reviews all requests before they reach McMaster’s desk.
Meanwhile, Ylber is the National Security Council’s senior director for defense policy.
After initial reports surfaced on social media pertaining to the brothers’ role in the White House, figures from left-wing institutions and think tanks quickly emerged to defend them.
“Ylli’s story is what makes America great. It was an honor to serve with him,” said Carl Woog.
“Ylli is a patriot. He embodies the American dream & served the US in non-political DoD roles for years,” said Colin Kahl, the national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Ylli Bajraktari is a kind, honest & dedicated civil servant,” adds Jacqueline Ramos, a fellow at the left-wing Center for a New American Security.
Though the national security adviser continues to populate the NSC with individuals and influences from the past administration, not everyone is convinced that the White House is a lost cause for President Trump’s base.
“I know the president will very rapidly come to understand that people around him at the senior levels of government are not serving him properly and honorably with regard to the advice and options they’re giving him,” Dr. Sebastian Gorka, who recently stepped down as special assistant to the president, tells Conservative Review.
“The president doesn’t just rely upon the counsel of those inside the White House,” Gorka said, predicting that Trump will “make some personnel decisions in the short to medium term that will strengthen the base that actually got the president elected.”
The National Security Council has not responded to a request for comment on this story. Should that change, this story will be updated to include the comment.
Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.