WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday forced out John Bolton, his hawkish national security adviser with whom he had significant disagreements on Iran, Afghanistan and a cascade of other global challenges.
The two men offered opposing accounts on Bolton’s less than friendly departure.
Trump tweeted that he told Bolton Monday night his services were no longer needed at the White House and Bolton submitted his resignation Tuesday morning. Bolton responded in a tweet of his own that he offered to resign Monday “and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.’”
Trump said that he had “disagreed strongly” with many of Bolton’s suggestions as national security adviser, “as did others in the administration.”
One Republican familiar with the disagreements between Trump and Bolton said the adviser’s opposition to a possible meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a precipitating factor in the dismissal. French President Emmanuel Macron has been trying to broker such a meeting, 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.
Since joining the administration in the spring of last year, Bolton has espoused skepticism about the president’s whirlwind rapprochement with North Korea and has advocated 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 persuade Trump to keep U.S. forces in Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State and Iranian influence in the region.
Bolton was also 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.
In recent months, tensions have risen between Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over influence in the president’s orbit and how to manage the president’s desire to negotiate with some of the world’s most unsavory actors.
Bolton and his National Security Council staff were also viewed warily by some in the White House who viewed them as more attuned to their own agendas than the president’s — and some administration aides have accused Bolton’s staff of being behind leaks of information embarrassing to Trump.
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 was always an unlikely pick to be Trump’s third national security adviser, with a world view seemingly ill-fit to the president’s isolationist “America First” pronouncements.
He’s championed hawkish foreign policy views dating back to 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 briefly considered running for president in 2016, in part to make the case against the isolationism that Trump would come to embody.
Still, Trump has admired Bolton for years, praising him on Twitter as far back as 2014. Trump has told allies he thinks Bolton is “a killer” on television, where Bolton is a frequent face on Fox News, though the president has voiced some unhappiness about Bolton’s trademark mustache, said a person familiar the president’s thinking but not permitted to reveal private discussions.
Bolton was named Trump’s third national security adviser in March 2018 after the departure of Army Gen. H.R. McMaster. Trump said he would name a replacement for Bolton next week.
AP writers Matthew Lee and Jonathan Lemire contributed.
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