On Saturday, Brett McGurk submitted his resignation and is leaving the Trump administration.
McGurk served as the US envoy in a global anti-ISIS coalition and reportedly resigned amid President Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria—a decision which also reportedly led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
From Fox News:
U.S. officials said this week that the Trump administration is making plans to pull all 2,000 troops out of Syria, and Trump later tweeted that “we have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”
On Thursday, Trump announced that Mattis was retiring in February. Mattis’ resignation letter said that Trump had a right to a Defense Secretary “whose views are better aligned with yours” on policy. Sources told Fox News this week that Mattis’ resignation was “in protest” over the president’s national security policies and that more resignations could be coming.
The Associated Press reported that McGurk said in a resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that ISIS was on the run, but wasn’t yet defeated and that U.S. work in Syria wasn’t yet done.
While Trump critics are using the pair of resignations as additional ammo to attack the president, both resignations were expected.
Ahead of Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, it was known that Mattis was nearing retirement—though an exact date was unclear.
Similarly, as CBS News reports, McGurk was slated to retire in February 2019. McGurk reportedly expedited his retirement amid the Syria remark.
Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, had been planning to exit his post in February 2019. But sources tell CBS News that he informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he will accelerate his departure due to a strong disagreement with President Trump’s snap decision to , effectively abandoning U.S. allies in the region.
“I think it’s fair to say Americans will remain on the ground after the physical defeat of the caliphate, until we have the pieces in place to ensure that that defeat is enduring,” McGurk said at a podium at the State Department earlier in the month, before Trump’s announcement this week.
McGurk continued, guaranteeing a continued effort in the Middle Eastern struggle: “It would be reckless if we were just to say, well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now. I think anyone who’s looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.”
President Trump took to social media amid backlash to comment on the resignation.
“Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015,” Trump said. “Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!”
While Trump claims to not know McGurk, he certainly knows of him as McGurk infamously helped score a secret deal between the Obama administration and Iran.
“McGurk has led U.S. efforts to counter the influence of ISIS on the battlegrounds of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond since 2015,” CBS News reports. “He was one of the few Obama appointees asked by the Trump team to remain in his post. Prior to that, he served in the Bush administration.”
And, “McGurk also led the successful and controversial secret negotiations with Iran that led to the 2016 release of American prisoners, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian.” (Emphasis added.)
And, from Fox News: “McGurk previously served as a deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, and led secret side talks with Iran about the release of American prisoners during the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal.”
Yes, THAT Iran deal. The overnight deal where pallets of $400 million in cash was given to Iran.
Here’s even more, from a 2016 Wall Street Journal report:
The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.
Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.
The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
The U.S. delegation was led by a special State Department envoy, Brett McGurk, and included representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to U.S. and European officials. The Iranian team was largely staffed by members of its domestic spy service, according to U.S. officials.