Bolton out as national security adviser after clashing with Trump

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SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

Ousted national security adviser John Bolton. – Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump announced Tuesday that John Bolton was no longer his national security adviser, saying in tweets that he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions” and that Bolton was no longer needed.

The two men offered differing accounts about whether Trump had forced Bolton out of the position or whether Bolton left voluntarily after repeated clashes with Trump.

“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump said on Twitter. “I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service.”

Trump said he would name a replacement next week, as the latest upheaval in his administration played out.

Bolton, a former diplomat and political commentator who came on board in April 2018, was Trump’s third national security adviser.

Trump’s harshly worded tweet made clear that long-simmering frustration with Bolton had boiled over. Bolton immediately took issue with Trump’s assertion that he was fired, saying that he had offered his resignation.

“Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night,” Bolton said in a text to The Washington Post. “I will have my say in due course. But I have given you the facts on the resignation. My sole concern is US national security.”

Bolton also responded to Trump on Twitter. “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow,’ ” he wrote.

Bolton was scheduled to appear alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a White House briefing later Tuesday. Trump’s announcement came less than two hours before that event.

“The president’s entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment,” Pompeo said at the event. “He should have people that he trusts and values.”

Asked whether he was blindsided by Trump’s announcement, Pompeo said, “I’m never surprised, and I don’t mean that on just this issue.”

“Our mission set is not to talk about these inner workings and the palace intrigue that I know you are so curious about, but rather to talk about the things that matter to American foreign policy,” he said, after acknowledging that he and Bolton disagreed on many issues.

Bolton’s relationship with Pompeo had become increasingly tense in recent months, with Bolton privately accusing Pompeo of spending too much time furthering his own political ambitions and Pompeo arguing that Bolton’s inflexibility and hard line views were corrosive.

Bolton’s departure had been rumored on and off for months, and Trump himself had joked about it earlier this year, saying he appreciated hearing Bolton’s views even though he often disagreed with them.

Ironically, Bolton’s departure came on the heels of what was perceived as a Bolton victory against Pompeo, his most formidable adversary inside the administration — the rejection of a peace deal in Afghanistan with the Taliban negotiated by Pompeo’s State Department.

Bolton had argued against the U.S.-Taliban negotiations for months, saying that the Taliban could not be trusted and that Trump could achieve his chief aim in Afghanistan — the withdrawal of U.S. troops — without any agreement with the militants.

Trump announced late Saturday that he was canceling a previously secret meeting with the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to finalize the deal. On Monday, he said that the deal, and the negotiations, were “dead.”

Bolton recently said he did not want to appear on television to defend some of the administration’s positions, particularly on Afghanistan and Russia, according to administration officials, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Bolton irritated others by regularly asking for a large entourage to travel, which many others were frustrated by, the officials said.

Bolton and Trump had been at odds on issues of substance and style.

Bolton did not like Trump’s repeated meetings with Kim Jong Un, administration officials said, and he had argued against directly meeting with Iranian officials. He also did not like the president’s repeated insistence that Russia rejoin the Group of Seven nations.

Trump regularly mocked Bolton as a warmonger, sometimes even ticking off countries and joking that Bolton would want to invade them, current and former senior administration officials said.

Trump’s announcement of Bolton’s departure drew immediate praise from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I think fundamentally President Trump and Bolton have different worldviews,” Paul told reporters. “I don’t know exactly what precipitated [his leaving], but the president deserves people around him who will carry out his policies … I for one think the chances of war go down greatly with John Bolton leaving the administration. The president deserves someone who understands his America first policy.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the committee, said in a statement that he had found Bolton to be “always pursuing an agenda that not only helps the President but makes America safe” — but also said Trump has a right to put who he wants in the position.

“I hope the president will choose someone with a strong background in national security and a world view that there is no substitute for American power when it comes to world order and that strength is better than weakness,” Graham said.

Democrats seized on the latest turnover in the administration.

“Today’s action by the president is just the latest example of his government-by-chaos approach and his rudderless national security policy,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “When Ambassador Bolton’s extreme views aren’t enough for you, the United States is headed for even more chaotic times.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, lamented that “we’re now headed for our fourth national security adviser in less than three years.”

“This revolving door of American leadership is devastating to our nation’s security as our allies now turn to more stable nations — like China and Russia — as our foreign policy infrastructure falls apart,” he said.

Bolton was preceded by Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster.

Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, resigned in February 2017 over revelations about his questionable contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States and his misleading statements about the matter to senior Trump administration officials.

McMaster, an Army lieutenant general at the time of his hiring by Trump, was forced out in March 2018 after enduring the ire of conservatives for months and disagreeing with Trump on some key foreign policy strategies.

Stephen E. Biegun, a former National Security Council staff member now serving as the U.S. special representative for North Korea, is among those considered a possible successor to Bolton.

Other potential replacements include Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. army colonel who appears often on Fox News to discuss national security issues.

Macgregor recently met with White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to discuss the position, said a person familiar with the meeting, who requested anonymity to describe private meetings. On television, Macgregor has advocated for a more restrained U.S. foreign policy outlook that contrasts sharply with Bolton’s more belligerent approach.


Courtesy/Source: Washington Post

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