Ex-George W. Bush counselor warns conservatives to stay away from Donald Trump administration filled with "unquestioning loyalty"

Another Republican comes forward to deliver a scathing attack of the Trump administration's transition team

Published November 16, 2016 1:56PM (EST)

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP)
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP)

Eliot A. Cohen, a military historian who served as counselor of the State Department under President George W. Bush from 2007 to 2009, is warning fellow conservatives to stay away from the Trump administration.

"I am a national security Never-Trumper who, after the election, made the case that young conservatives should volunteer to serve in the new administration, warily, their undated letters of resignation ready," Cohen wrote in an editorial for The Washington Post on Tuesday night. "That advice, I have concluded, was wrong."

Cohen went on to describe how one of his conservative friends "in Trumpworld" asked him to provide a list of names from the Republican foreign policy establishment who had not formally joined the Never Trump movement and might be willing to serve under President Trump. After complying with the request, Cohen says that the friend responded in an email "seething with anger directed at those of us who had opposed Donald Trump — even those who stood ready to help steer good people to an administration that understandably wanted nothing to do with the likes of me, someone who had been out front in opposing Trump since the beginning."

Although Cohen has since patched things up with his friend and characterized the email exchange as "a momentary eruption of temper," he also describes the exchange as a "tipping point" when it comes to his feelings about conservatives working in the Trump administration.

"In the best of times, government service carries with it the danger of compromising your principles," Cohen writes. "Here, though, we may be in for something much worse. The canary in the coal mine was not merely the selection of Stephen K. Bannon for the job previously filled by John Podesta and Karl Rove, that of counselor to the president and chief strategist. Rather, the warning signs came from the Republican leaders excusing and normalizing this sinister character — and those who then justified the normalizers."

Cohen's editorial may not come as a surprise to political observers who have been paying attention in the week since Trump's upset election over Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, Cohen issued a tweet describing hostility with members of the Trump transition team that may have been referring to the anonymous friend mentioned in his piece for The Washington Post.


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Donald Trump Eliot Cohen President Donald Trump Republicans