President Trump announced Tuesday that he has fired his hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton, saying he and others in the administration “disagreed strongly” with his suggestions on foreign policy.
“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump tweeted. “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,” he added in a subsequent tweet. “I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”
….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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2019
Bolton quickly challenged Trump’s version of events, saying he offered to resign Monday night, but the president had said they could talk about it more on Tuesday.
I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow."
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) September 10, 2019
Bolton also told Fox News that he had offered to resign Monday evening while discussing Afghanistan with the president.
“I offered to resign last night,” he told Fox News in a text message. “There was no request for a resignation.”
Prior to the president’s tweets Tuesday morning, Bolton was slated to join a national security briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
During the press briefing Pompeo told reporters that it was his understanding that the president had asked Bolton for his resignation Monday night.
Trump and Bolton have clashed on a number of national security issues, including Iran, the Syria troop withdrawal, and a planned troop reduction in Afghanistan.
According to Fox News, Bolton’s ouster comes after he was “sidelined from high-level discussions about military involvement in Afghanistan.”
The Washington Post reported that Bolton was not invited to a high-profile meeting after opposing diplomatic efforts in the region. The Post reported that his opposition bothered Trump.
“Simply put, many of Bolton’s policy priorities did not align with POTUS,” a White House official told Fox News on Tuesday.
While Trump announced a 4,000-troop increase in 2017 as part of an effort to break the stalemate in the country, he has been moving toward agreeing to a phased withdrawal of troops. Some 14,000 U.S. troops have remained in Afghanistan, advising and assisting Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations.
Bolton also reportedly blew up the Hanoi Summit in February by demanding that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un surrender all of his nuclear weapons and bomb fuel to the United States.
The president presented Kim with a piece of paper detailing the U.S. position at Hanoi’s Metropole hotel on Feb. 28,
The document appeared to represent Bolton’s long-held and hardline “Libya model” of denuclearization that North Korea has rejected repeatedly. It probably would have been seen by Kim as insulting and provocative, analysts said.
Trump had previously distanced himself in public comments from Bolton’s approach and said a “Libya model” would be employed only if a deal could not be reached.
Names being floated as possible replacements for the national security post are Richard Grenell, Stephen E. Biegun, Jack Keene, and Brian Hook.
Grenell is currently the United States Ambassador to Germany; Stephen E. Biegun is an American businessman and diplomat serving as the United States Special Representative for North Korea; Hook is an American lawyer and alleged swamp creature who currently serves as U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Keane is a retired four-star general and former Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and a defense analyst serving as chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War.
Trump reportedly asked Keene to serve as secretary of defense in November of 2016, but he declined the offer because of “personal issues” surrounding the recent death of his wife.
Bolton was Trump’s third national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster, who had been appointed early in the administration to replace Michael Flynn.
Pompeo and Mnuchin addressed Bolton’s departure during the scheduled press conference on global terrorism.
“Last night the president asked for Ambassador Bolton’s resignation as I understand it and it was received this morning,” Pompeo said. He told reporters that he would leave it to the president to explain his reasons for the firing, but pointed out that the president had every right to do it.
“The president is entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment,” Pompeo said. “This is a staff person who works directly for the president of the United States and he should have people he trusts and values and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy … When a president makes a decision like this, he’s well within his rights to do so.”
Pompeo also noted that he and Bolton had disagreed many times, “but that’s true with lots of people with whom I interact.”
Everyone’s talked about this for an awfully long time. There were definitely places where the ambassador and I had different views on how we should proceed,” he added.
When asked if he had been blindsided by Bolton’s firing, since he had been scheduled to take part in that very press briefing, Pompeo quipped, “I’m never surprised.” He added: “And I think Sec. Mnuchin would say the same thing. We work very closely with the president of the United States. I think we have a pretty good understanding of how he’s thinking about things—I think you would agree Steven—at nearly all times.”
Pompeo went on to say that they would rather talk about matters of consequence to American foreign policy than the “palace intrigue” the media is “so curious about.”
When a reporter shouted, “is the national security team a mess,” Mnuchin replied testily, “absolutely not. That’s the most ridiculous question I’ve ever heard of.”
“Let me just say, the national security team … consists of the national security adviser, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, myself, the chief of staff and many others,” he added.