Trump Fires Bolton, But Ex-National Security Adviser Maintains He Offered to Leave

September 10, 2019 by Dan McCue
U.S President Donald Trump, left, and John Bolton, right, the new national security adviser attend a briefing from Senior Military Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House on April 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump fired John Bolton Tuesday, a little more than an hour before his hawkish national security adviser was set to participate in a White House briefing for reporters alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump announced Bolton’s dismissal in a curt pair of tweets Tuesday afternoon.

“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” the president wrote. “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore …  I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning.

“I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week,” the president added.

Moments later, however, Bolton himself took to Twitter to say, “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.'”

Charles Kupperman, the deputy national security adviser, will replace Bolton on an acting basis.

At the White House, Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley spoke briefly with reporters, saying Bolton’s “priorities and policies just don’t line up with the president.”

Gidley added, “There is no one issue here …they just didn’t align on many issues.”

He walked away without responding to questions of Bolton’s conflicting account.

Since joining the administration in the spring of 2018, Bolton has expressed doubt about the president’s whirlwind handling of North Korea and has advocated against Trump’s decision last year to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

Bolton was also reportedly opposed to Trump’s now-scrapped notion to bring Taliban negotiators to Camp David last weekend to try to finalize a peace deal in Afghanistan.

But the last straw between the two men appears to be a strong disagreement on how to deal with Iran.

Since the G-7 meeting last month, French President Emmanuel Macron has been trying to broker a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, possibly on the sidelines of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly, in the hope of salvaging the international Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from.

Also contributing to Bolton’s ouster was his souring relationship with Pompeo over their respective roles managing Trump’s foreign policy.

Bolton’s ouster came as a surprise to many in the White House.

Just an hour before Trump’s tweet, the press office announced that Bolton would join Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a briefing. A White House official said that Bolton had departed the premises after Trump’s tweet and would no longer appear as scheduled.

Bolton first gained notice for his hawkish foreign policy views during the Reagan administration and became a household name over his vociferous support for the Iraq War as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under George W. Bush.

Bolton was named Trump’s third national security adviser in March 2018 after the departure of Army Gen. H.R. McMaster.

Reaction to Bolton’s departure came quickly on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an occasional counselor to Trump on foreign policy matters, complimented Bolton as someone who “sees the world for what it is,” but stressed that it is important that a national security adviser be able to have a “personal relationship” with the president they serve.

“President Trump, like every other president, has the right to a National Security Adviser of his own choosing,” Graham said. “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.”

Among those praising the move was Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who described Bolton’s firing as a “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,” Paul said.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer expressed relief that Bolton will no longer have the president’s ear, but said he continues to be concerned by the chaos and dysfunction in the White House when it comes to national security and foriegn affairs.

“Whoever replaces Mr. Bolton ought to be someone who approaches our national security challenges with strategy and care, someone who understands the importance of working closely with the Congress, and someone who isn’t afraid to say ‘no’ to the President when he is wrong,” Hoyer said. 

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