A foreign policy expert who played a role in trying to change the Ukraine plank in the Republican Party’s platform four years ago and later criticized President Trump has nonetheless won a plum White House appointment.
The nomination of scholar and columnist Ilan Berman to the International Broadcasting Advisory Board has riled at least one Trump loyalist: J.D. Gordon tells The Washington Times it is another example of the White House ignoring those who toiled on the campaign.
“He should have stayed out of it,” Mr. Gordon said of Mr. Berman. “But even if not, he should not be cashing in as the people whose lives he helped wreck like mine and [campaign volunteer] Carter Page still haven’t recovered.”
Mr. Berman told The Times that, from his perch at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, he merely honored a request from then-GOP convention delegate Diana Denman. She wanted help in enhancing the plank’s Ukraine language with a firm commitment to deliver lethal defensive weapons to Kyiv.
“I fully understand that J.D. has sour grapes,” Mr. Berman said. “He has been put through the ringer as a result of this. But I don’t find it the most constructive thing to do, to be lashing out at people he once considered his friends.”
No one involved back then could imagine that a seemingly minor plank debate would be turned by the news media into Trump–Russia conspiracy allegations. Democrats accused Trump aides of rejecting the Denman amendment to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Gordon, a Trump campaign national security adviser and former Pentagon spokesman, refereed the plank debate in Cleveland. As a compromise, he strengthened the original language to create a promise of military assistance but avoided the word “lethal” because he didn’t want to overcommit a Trump administration.
For that negotiation, Mr. Gordon found himself a Democratic target. He faced steep legal bills and hours of questioning by congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller.
House Republicans saw the Ukraine debate as just another liberal media smear amid a frenzy over Mr. Trump and Russia. Republicans concluded that the platform’s final language ended up stronger, not weaker, than before.
Four years later, on Aug. 3, Mr. Gordon saw Mr. Berman’s name on a White House announcement. Mr. Berman, whom Mr. Gordon partially blames for his troubles, had been nominated to serve on the International Broadcasting Advisory Board.
Mr. Gordon has long complained that few campaign national security advisers won any administration jobs — including himself — despite sticking their necks out for the president.
“I don’t fault Berman for that, though it is wrong on so many levels for campaign arsonists to be rewarded with Trump administration posts while the actual campaign was stiffed,” Mr. Gordon told The Times.
“From the beginning of the administration,” Mr. Gordon said, “individuals who advance their own views, and not necessarily those the president campaigned upon and was elected for, have filled the senior ranks of Trump appointees. In turn, those officials have near universally kept out ‘America First’ loyalists who had their lives overturned for supporting Mr. Trump in 2016.”
The White House announcement describes Mr. Berman as “an expert on regional security in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Russian Federation, having consulted for the United States Central Intelligence Agency as well as the United States Department of State and Department of Defense.”
Back in 2016, during platform debates before the GOP convention officially started, Ms. Denman, a delegate pledged to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, offered her amendment. She wanted to help a democratic Ukraine keep Russian troops at bay since Russian’s 2014 invasion and seizure of Crimea.
Ms. Denman began her national security activism as an appointee in the Reagan administration. She has aimed to support countries trying to cast off dictatorships. She went to Cleveland as a platform committee member.
Mr. Berman told The Times he doesn’t remember if he used the word “lethal.”
In Mr. Trump’s second month in office, Mr. Berman wrote in a U.S. News and World Report article that the new president’s phone call with Mr. Putin resulted in Russia ratcheting up its offensive against Ukrainian troops.
“Indeed, the new offensive came just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-anticipated phone call with President Donald Trump last weekend — one in which, by all indications, the new president signaled that he was willing to give the Russian leader broad latitude in Russia’s ‘near abroad,’” he wrote.