Rich Higgins gives an interview in 2017.
CNN  — 

The White House is pushing the Department of Defense to hire a former National Security Council staffer who has repeatedly pushed fringe conspiracy theories on Twitter and in media appearances.

Rich Higgins, a former aide who says he was fired from the National Security Council in 2017 for sending a conspiratorial memo, is currently being considered to serve as chief of staff to retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, the White House’s nominee for the under secretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon.

A source familiar with the internal discussions told CNN the White House has pushed the Pentagon to hire Higgins and he is under consideration to be chief of staff for Tata, if Tata is confirmed by the Senate. Foreign Policy and the Washington Post first reported on the push to hire Higgins.

A Pentagon spokesperson referred questions from CNN to the White House. A White House spokesperson said it “does not comment on personnel.”

When asked for comment, Higgins wrote in an email to CNN, “Not going into DOD. No offer has been made,” and in a follow up email, “I don’t know what the WH is pushing. Ask them. I am not at the Pentagon in any role.”

But Higgins confirmed he was under consideration in a YouTube show posted last night.

“It’s still under consideration, it is true,” Higgins said. He added, “I think it’s the type of thing where if they get the current nominee, who is a guy named Tony Tata, into the position where I would be a direct report to him – it would probably be worth going in.”

CNN followed up with Higgins after discovering the YouTube show confirming his consideration as Tata’s chief of staff. Higgins did not respond.

Higgins, who served in the Army and later in the Pentagon as a career official in the Bush and Obama administrations, according to his biography, was fired from the NSC in 2017 after authoring a memo claiming that a “deep state” band of officials and movements were opposing President Donald Trump. He defined the opposition as the media, Islamists, Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, the United Nations and cultural Marxists leading a coordinated effort to delegitimize and subvert the President.

Since Higgins left the NSC in 2017, he has continued to promote and spread conspiracy theories, according to a CNN KFile review of his media appearances. Higgins said that former Obama administration officials were communists, that the Black Lives Matter movement is “Marxist” and “an agent” of China, and that “left wing” organizations invented the term Islamophobia only 15 years ago.

The push to hire Higgins, a conspiracy theorist, and Tata, a frequent and ardent defender of the President on Fox News, to senior positions at the Pentagon comes as the White House seeks to install loyalists, many of whom hold extremist views, throughout the administration.

The White House nominated Tata to become the third highest official at the Pentagon in June, but his nomination has come under scrutiny since CNN reported that the retired general pushed conspiracy theories and made anti-Muslim comments on social media, including calling former President Barack Obama “a Muslim” and claiming former CIA director John Brennan sent a coded tweet to order the assassination of Trump in 2018.

Like Tata, Higgins derided Islam in tweets, writing in one tweet disparagingly of military generals who said to “accept Islam and all their other bullschiff [sic].”

In another, he wrote, “Consequences for ignoring threat doctrine. Communism and Islam are blind spots for the national security community for decades,” and that “we who warned were called ‘racists.’”

Despite almost half a dozen Democratic senators opposing Tata’s nomination, Tata’s nomination is still in play. A Congressional source told CNN that Tata is expected to get a nomination hearing before the August recess. The committee also expects to hold a private executive session on Tata before the hearing, too.

Spokespersons for the Senate Armed Services Committee did not respond to requests for comment.

Tata’s expected nomination hearing comes amid a report that the administration is considering naming Tata to an acting role to skirt the confirmation process.

A source familiar with Tata’s nomination disputed that account to CNN. “Gen. Tata looks forward to discussing all the relevant policy issues during his Senate confirmation hearing. Skirting that process is not an option,” the source said.

Tata’s White House support remains strong, the source added.

A history of conspiracy theories

Higgins is a prolific tweeter to his more than 31,000 Twitter followers, and frequently shares conspiracy theories or fringe rhetoric on the platform.

One theory Higgins frequently and repeatedly falsely claimed is that many government officials are communists, specifically saying many members of the Obama administration and the former President himself were communists. In other tweets, he claimed left wing organizations or movements were “Marxist.”

In other tweets from 2019, Higgins repeatedly wrote that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was a key witness in Trump’s impeachment inquiry, was “a spy and was trying to spark an OP against POTUS.” There is no evidence Vindman was a spy.

“We had our first openly communist president in Obama,” Higgins said in a 2019 YouTube interview. “This open communist who ran identifying himself as a community organizer, right out of Saul Alinsky’s book ‘Rules for Radicals’ – the communist community organizer. You know, he brings in all these open and some, you know, some more closeted Marxists. I mean, Comey has a communist history. Brennan has a communist history. Clapper has a communist history just across the board.”

“What if communists were in charge of CIA, FBI, DNI and the WH under Obama?” he tweeted in November 2019.

Higgins has also targeted social justice movements as “communist” movements and encouraged his followers to boycott companies, schools, organizations and politicians who support them. On Twitter, he frequently referred to Black Lives Matter as “Marxist revolutionaries” and “Marxist.

In another tweet, Higgins dismissed the nationwide protests held in the wake of George Floyd’s death as “not organic” and claimed that Venezuela, Cuba and “other marxist state assets” were “operating inside these protests.”

After a user asked for proof, Higgins responded, “I have sources on the ground. Does the fbi [sic]? Nope. They’re busy chasing white supremacists and running a coup.”

“The fact that Congress doesn’t know that BLM is an agent of communist China doesn’t bode well for the country,” he tweeted in June 2020.

In June, Higgins linked to an article on former Defense Secretary James Mattis, suggesting Mattis was “compromised” by communists in the Obama administration.

“In a police state many people are compromised and forced into actions that they would not normally perform,” Higgins wrote. “One has to wonder how many of our leaders were compromised by the communist President, CIA Director, and FBI Director. Serious question.”

He also accused prominent officials and institutions of “treason” or “misprision of treason” on Twitter, including the media, Congress and ex-officials.

“The legacy media is 100% part of this coup attempt and Congress as well as DOJ needs to take action and INDICT them as co-conspirators in this sedition and possible treason,” Higgins wrote in November 2019.

In other tweets, Higgins said former CIA director John Brennan was guilty of treason and that former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was a “complete fraud and she knows that she is guilty of misprision of treason.”

Comments on Islam

Higgins also made Islamophobic comments and questioned if Islamophobia was a legitimate concept.

In a video interview, Higgins said that the “left wing political narrative” invented the concept of Islamophobia 15 years ago to “marry our perception of who” the “enemy” is.

“They put together a concept like, for example, Islamophobia. Fifteen years ago, we never heard the term Islamophobia. And we have to ask ourselves, where did that come from? And when you walk it back, you realize that Islamophobia is a term concocted by the generators of these narratives,” Higgins said.

“The purpose of a term like Islamophobia is to enforce the Islamic law of slander on Westerners, to shut down critical thinking and reason that would actually enable us to understand why the enemy fights, why Omar Mateen was drawn to shoot 100 people, 49 whom passed, at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida,” he added, referring to the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter who killed 49 people and wounded at least 53 people in 2016.