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Trump looks beyond his ‘very good brain’ to form fringe foreign policy team

Reuters/AFP-JIJI

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday unveiled a partial list of his foreign policy advisers in an interview with The Washington Post, after saying last week that he mostly consults himself on international affairs.

The advisory team includes terrorism expert Walid Phares, energy industry executive Carter Page, international energy lawyer George Papadopoulos, former government Inspector General Joe Schmitz, and former Army Lt. Grn. Keith Kellogg, he told the Post in an on-the-record editorial board meeting, the media company said.

Trump said he would soon unveil more people who are helping him shape his foreign policies as part of the team, led by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama who endorsed Trump last month.

Most of those named by Trump are not well known in foreign policy academic or expert circles.

Phares told Reuters he began advising Trump on Friday. He previously had served as a national security adviser to former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has roundly criticized Trump.

Phares said in an email he has not met Trump in person since last year.

Others named by Trump could not be immediately reached to confirm their role with Trump’s campaign.

Schmitz was a Pentagon inspector general during the George W. Bush administration and has worked for Blackwater Worldwide, a now-defunct private U.S. security firm whose personnel were involved in a deadly shooting that killed Iraqi civilians in 2007.

Kellogg has considerable military experience, having served as the chief operating officer of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-run provisional government imposed on Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion under Bush. He works at CACI International, a Virginia-based intelligence and information technology consulting firm, the Post reported.

According to the Post, Papadopoulos previously advised Trump’s former rival, Ben Carson, who has now backed Trump. The London Center of International Law Practice’s Center website lists him as the head of its Center for International Energy and Natural Resources Law & Security.

Page serves as a managing partner of Global Energy Capital, a private energy services company, the Post said.

Sessions, who in February became the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse party front-runner Trump, is also not seen as an influential foreign policy or national security player in the U.S. Congress. He does not serve on the influential Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, although he is a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Last week, Trump said in a television interview on MSNBC, which has been pressing the Republican front-runner to name his foreign advisory team, that he relies on his own instinct.

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain,” he told MSNBC. “I know what I’m doing. … My primary consultant is myself.”

Trump, not known for his foreign policy expertise, unveiled a team of advisers drawn from the energy industry and the fringes of Washington’s international affairs establishment.

Trump, who is closing in on the Republican presidential nomination, has been under pressure in the media to name a foreign policy team, amid reports that mainstream conservative and neo-conservative experts are loath to endorse him.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post editorial board, the property baron turned Republican frontrunner rattled off a half-dozen names of experts prepared to lend their reputation to his campaign.

On counterterrorism policy Trump plumped for Phares, an academic whom Mother Jones magazine reported in 2011 was formerly tied to civil war-era Lebanese Christian warlords.

For defense, Trump turned to Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant general turned consultant who was chief operating officer to the U.S .occupation of Iraq during its disastrous early months in 2003 and 2004.

Schmitz also served during George W. Bush’s administration — as inspector general to the Pentagon — and later, according to the Post, in a senior role with U.S. mercenary outfit Blackwater.

He is a co-author of a report for a little-known conservative think tank, the Center for Security Policy, titled: “Sharia — The Threat to America.”

The list is rounded out by energy experts Page and Papadopoulos.

According to the Post, Trump outlined “an unabashedly non-interventionist approach to world affairs” in his interview, which was published shortly before he was due to address the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC.