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Top Russia expert at National Security Council marched out of White House in sudden departure

Top Russia expert at National Security Council marched out of White House in sudden departure

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The momentous events surrounding the historic impeachment of Donald Trump have at times so sucked up the attention of the media that stories that otherwise would have a major impact on the news cycle are being buried and forgotten before the majority of people even learn about them.

Take the news about Andrew Peek, the president’s recent appointee as Senior Director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council.

According to Axios, the White House’s new Russia expert has become the latest Trump appointee to be embroiled in a security clearance-related investigation and has been removed from his post just days before he was scheduled to accompany the president to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where Trump will be hobnobbing with world leaders and economic titans as his impeachment trial in the Senate is taking place.

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The official line from the White House is that Peek is being placed on administrative leave, perhaps an effort to downplay the seriousness of the undisclosed security investigation being conducted since the latest Russia expert on the National Security Council was reportedly escorted from the White House grounds on Friday, according to Bloomberg News.

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Andrew Peek had only been working in his position for about three months and was the third person to leave that post in less than a year as Trump cycles through people with the required expertise to try to find someone aligned with his own unique views on the relationship the United States should have with a Russian government whose interference in his 2016 election he has strenuously downplayed.

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Peek was the successor to two officials who featured prominently in the House impeachment investigations of the Ukraine scandal that has led to the president’s upcoming trial.

His immediate predecessor, Tim Morrison, testified that he had been told by Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the EU, that the Ukranian government would not receive any of the congressionally-allocated military aid unless they opened an investigation into the company that former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was working with, in a confirmation of accusations of a quid pro quo arrangement.

Before Morrison held the position, it was the domain of Russia specialist Fiona Hill who told the House impeachment hearings that Trump’s accusations that Ukraine, rather than Russia, meddled in the 2016 elections were a “fictional narrative.”

With the details of exactly what triggered the security investigation into Andrew Peek still under wraps, it’s difficult to speculate why he was escorted out of the White House so expeditiously. Even more perplexing is how he managed to work on the national security team of Trump administration for three months without raising questions.

Presumably, Peek must have had to undergo a fairly extensive background check in his previous government positions as deputy assistant secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, as a U.S. Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan, and as a national security advisor to two different Republican senators.

Whatever the reasons for Peek’s hasty exodus, the personnel issues that the Trump administration is having on its national security team don’t bode well for the safety of our nation. Then again, given that Donald Trump rarely seems to accept advice that contradicts his already-hardened personal opinions, no matter how ill-informed, perhaps it makes little difference what advice comes his way.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Original reporting by Margaret Talev at Axios and by Jennifer Jacobs, Nick Wadhams, and Justin Sink at Bloomberg News.

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