Loyalty to President Trump seems to be more important than loyalty to the country. And for Elliott Abrams, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's pick to be his second-in-command, Abrambs' disloyalty was too much for him to bear.
More specifically, Abrams was critical of Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
Abrams, who has decades of foreign policy experience working under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (while Tillerson has none), was passed over as deputy secretary of state due to a critical editorial that Abrams wrote in May, according to a report by CNN on Friday.
One Republican source told CNN it was a case of "Donald Trump's thin skin and nothing else," while another commented that "this is a loss for the State Department and the country and, for that matter, for the president." Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner both pushed for Trump to overcome his hurt feelings and choose Abrams.
In Abrams' Weekly Standard editorial, titled "When You Can't Stand Your Candidate," he recalled being a Democrat during the 1972 presidential election and working for the campaign of moderate Sen. Henry M. Jackson of Washington, who wound up losing the nomination to the staunchly left-wing Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota. Abrams' advice to his fellow Republicans on the eve of Trump's nomination in 2016 was to "not allow the Republican convention to be a coronation wherein Trump and Trumpism are unchallenged." He also advised Republicans to "watch out about the vice presidency and accepting other forms of favor from Trump," citing how future president Jimmy Carter earned Abrams' contempt when Carter asked McGovern to choose him as his running mate after vehemently denouncing McGovern throughout the campaign.
Abrams also encouraged Republicans to focus on congressional races instead of winning the White House. He told them to "seize the party machinery back immediately after the Trump defeat," oppose Trump to the greatest degree that was politically realistic and organize around their principles so that the GOP wouldn't nominate another candidate like Trump in 2020.
This isn't the first time that Trump allowed a grudge to interfere with his personnel selections. Close Trump adviser Roger Stone has admitted that Trump never would have picked Mitt Romney as his secretary of state, despite publicly vetting him, because of Romney's harsh criticisms of Trump during the 2016 campaign.