President Donald Trump said Tuesday via Twitter that he had fired national security adviser John Bolton and will name a replacement next week.
“I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration,” said Trump, without getting into specifics.
Bolton, in his own tweet, contradicted the president’s version of events. He said he offered to resign on Monday night and was told, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow.”
The timing of Trump’s announcement came as a surprise, given that an hour earlier the White House had announced a Tuesday press briefing on an unspecified briefing, which was to feature Bolton alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Bolton, 70, served in the administration of George W. Bush as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and earlier in his career in various capacities in the Republican administrations of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
This is, again, like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.– Ted Lieu, Democratic congressman
Trump’s next national security adviser will be the fourth of his administration.
In the meantime, Charlie Kupperman, current deputy national security adviser, will act as an interim national security adviser, White House officials say.
His first choice, Michael Flynn, was gone after three weeks for lying to the administration — and subsequently, the FBI — over contacts with Russia during the Trump transition to government.
Army Gen. H.R. McMaster succeeded Flynn, and stayed in the role until March 2018.
Bolton’s hiring to succeed McMaster raised some eyebrows, given a world view seemingly ill suited to the president’s isolationist “America First” pronouncements.
Bolton has espoused hawkish foreign policy views and gave vociferous support for the Iraq War under George W. Bush. Bolton even briefly considered running for president in 2016, in part to make the case against the isolationism that Trump would come to embody.
John Bolton never should have been hired. I hope the president’s next national security adviser will focus on securing peace, not expanding war.
I commend <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@realDonaldTrump</a> for this necessary action. The President has great instincts on foreign policy and ending our endless wars. He should be served by those who share those views. <a href=”https://t.co/XEBwzySxac”>https://t.co/XEBwzySxac</a>
Today we learn <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@realDonaldTrump</a> fired National Security Adviser John Bolton. More chaos at the White House. <br><br>This is, again, like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The problem is not all the staff that have been let go. It’s the captain of the ship.<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TuesdayThoughts?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TuesdayThoughts</a> <a href=”https://t.co/Yi2KQawJ59″>https://t.co/Yi2KQawJ59</a>
Inside the administration he advocated caution on the president’s whirlwind rapprochement with North Korea and against Trump’s decision last year to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. He masterminded a quiet campaign inside the administration and with allies abroad to convince Trump to keep U.S. forces in Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as Iranian influence in the region.
Bolton was also opposed to Trump’s now-scrapped notion to bring Taliban negotiators to Camp David to complete a peace deal in Afghanistan.
Pompeo and Mnuchin tried to present a unified front at their briefing, which was to announce new sanctions for members of Hamas, ISIS, al-Qaeda and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“We all give our candid opinions,” said Pompeo of the inner workings of the administration. “There were many times Ambassador Bolton and I disagreed, that’s to be sure.”
“The president is entitled to the staff he wants,” Pompeo said at a separate juncture.
When asked about the fact that Bolton had been scheduled to appear at the briefing as recently as Tuesday morning, Pompeo, who had previously served as Trump’s CIA director, said he was “never surprised” by staffing changes within the administration.
Bolton’s exit continues the dizzying pace of change in the administration, which has included the remaking of Trump’s foreign policy team. UN ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of Defence James Mattis both departed within the past year, while Pompeo has been on the job for 20 months, having succeeded Rex Tillerson.
Mnuchin reacted dismissively to a reporter’s question about whether there was “disarray” given the turnover, emphasizing the number of people involved overall within the national security team.
Within the White House, Trump is now working with his third chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
The latest change prompted a flurry of reaction on Capitol Hill.
Justin Amash, the Republican congressman who is now an independent after criticizing the administration, characterized Bolton as a bad hire, while his California Democrat colleague Ted Lieu reserved most of his criticism for Trump.
“This is, again, like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Lieu. “The problem is not all the staff that have been let go. It’s the captain of the ship.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a frequent critic of U.S. military adventurism abroad, praised Bolton’s departure as a “necessary action.”
“The President has great instincts on foreign policy and ending our endless wars,” said Paul. “He should be served by those who share those views.”