President Donald Trump’s senior counselor for economic initiatives Dina Powell will be named deputy national security adviser for strategy, according to National Security Council and administration sources.
In her new role, Powell is expected to work closely with national security adviser H.R. McMaster and focus on long-term issues. She is also expected to help lead an interagency policy process working with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
McMaster has developed a strong relationship with Powell and asked her to take on the role given her extensive interagency experience in the George W. Bush administration, one source said.
“Gen. McMaster is placing a renewed focus on strategy development and implementation and is thrilled to have the talent, time and expertise of Dina Powell, a White and State Department veteran with extensive relationships in and outside of government to devote to this effort,” said NSC spokesman Michael Anton.
Powell will also continue to work with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner on economic initiatives, but the NSC role is expected to take up much of her time.
The role of K.T. McFarland, the current deputy national security adviser, has been in question since retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was fired from the post of national security adviser amid controversy about his contacts with the Russian ambassador over sanctions. McFarland is a Fox News security pundit who previously worked as a public affairs official in Ronald Reagan’s Pentagon.
Many in the elite security council expected newly appointed McMaster to bring on his own deputy and move McFarland to another posting outside of the agency.
Anton noted that McFarland will remain the deputy national security adviser, meaning she will technically be above Powell on the council’s organizational chart.
Powell, an Egyptian-American and an Arabic speaker, has taken a more prominent role recently in foreign affairs with Trump. She was seated at the head of the table during his lunch with the Saudi deputy crown prince this week. Powell, a director of personnel during the Bush administration, was a partner at Goldman Sachs before joining the administration. She has been a formal adviser to Ivanka Trump and Kushner.
A source with knowledge of the situation said that the move was designed to effectively push out McFarland by putting another person in her role. While morale is higher in the NSC with McMaster, McFarland has been seen as a weak deputy internally, according to an NSC source.
Vice Adm. Robert Harward is said to have turned down the position of national security adviser earlier this year because he wanted to bring on his own team instead of working so closely with McFarland, whose level of recent experience has been questioned.
In a sign of concerns about McFarland, executive secretary Keith Kellogg temporarily took over the agency — not McFarland — when Flynn was fired from the post.
On Capitol Hill, Powell’s move won plaudits from senior Republicans.
“Dina will be outstanding in this role, she’s got tremendous relationships with all involved,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “She’s the kind of person I think can create consensus in a role of really being the strategic person. I couldn’t be more excited that she accepted the role.”