Trump ousts John Bolton over Iran, Afghanistan clashes

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

President Trump announced Tuesday that John Bolton will no longer serve as national security adviser, saying that he “strongly disagreed” with a number of Bolton’s suggestions and that his services are no longer needed by the White House. 

“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. 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,” Trump said in a pair of tweets. 

Trump’s remarks were a culmination of brewing tension inside the administration over Bolton, who had clashed with the president and other officials — most notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — on a number of issues, including the path forward with Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea, over the past 17 months.

Most recently, Bolton was seemingly on the winning side after Trump announced that he would be ending negotiations with the Taliban ahead of planned meetings at Camp David, which the embattled adviser was against. He had reportedly told Trump that he could lower troop levels in the region without a deal with a group that is responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans for nearly two decades.  

However, Bolton was also viewed by some as responsible for leaks, including last weekend after Trump made his announcement nixing talks with the Taliban. Reports surfaced that Bolton and Vice President Pence were against the discussions, which the vice president’s team has since disputed. Not helping Bolton’s argument was his decision to immediately contact reporters insisting that he was not fired, texting and replying to questions by insisting he had set his departure in motion on Monday night. 

“I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow,’” Bolton tweeted shortly after Trump’s announcement.

The Hill: Five takeaways on Trump’s ouster of John Bolton.

CBS News: Condoleezza Rice: “I’m relieved” that U.S. walked away from talks with the Taliban.

NBC News: As frustration with Bolton mounted, Trump reached out to ex-adviser H.R. McMaster.

Bolton’s ouster also means the voices offering dissenting perspectives from Trump’s own inside in the White House are being reduced. GOP lawmakers, most notably Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), indicated that they were upset by the ouster for that reason.

It also means there is more likelihood that Trump could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly, which kicks off on Tuesday in New York, has increased. Pompeo indicated that Trump could finally meet with Rouhani on the sidelines of the gathering, something Bolton vehemently opposed.

The Iranians made their pleasure known over Bolton’s ouster. Hesameddin Ashena, Rouhani’s top political adviser, tweeted that Bolton’s exit was “a definitive sign that Washington’s maximum pressure on Iran has failed,” adding that “Iran’s blockade will end.”

The Associated Press: Iran urges U.S. to “put warmongers aside” after Bolton firing.

More than anything, the ouster came down to competing viewpoints on foreign policy matters, with Trump continuing to be skeptical of intervention across the globe. Trump derided Bolton’s penchant for pushing military action and intervention on occasion. The New York Times reported in May that Trump told officials, “If it was up to John, we’d be in four wars now.”

“I think fundamentally President Trump and Bolton have different worldviews,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) 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.”

The move also boosts Pompeo, who was in a jovial mood when he appeared alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to brief the press corps, a scheduled event at which Bolton had been expected to appear. Pompeo said he is “never surprised,” suggesting Trump lost confidence in Bolton.

“He should have people he trusts and values,” Pompeo said. “There were definitely places that Ambassador Bolton and I had different views about how we should proceed.”

Bolton was Trump’s third national security adviser and his longest tenured one. McMaster, his predecessor, held the post for nearly 14 months and had a rocky relationship with the president, while Michael Flynn served for only 24 days before tendering his resignation.

According to reports, among those under consideration to replace Bolton in a full-time capacity are Stephen E. Biegun, a former National Security Council staff member who serves as the U.S. special representative for North Korea, and Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran and senior policy adviser to Pompeo (Fox News). Another possibility is Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. army colonel and national security commentator for Fox News who has publicly praised Trump’s approach to Iran (The Washington Post).

Appearing on Fox News on Tuesday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) floated Hook, Gen. Keith Kellogg, who serves as the national security adviser to the vice president, and Rick Waddell, a former national security aide to McMaster, as possible replacements.

The New York Times: Trump administration turnover to date, charted and detailed.

Perspectives & Analysis:

Gerald F. Seib: With Bolton’s exit, GOP interventionism gives way to Trump.

John Gans: How John Bolton broke the National Security Council.

Tom Rogan: John Bolton’s firing won’t fix Trump’s widening foreign policy holes.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: John Bolton resigns.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: John Bolton’s legacy: Chaos, dysfunction and no meaningful accomplishments.

Michael McFaul: In foreign policy, Trump gets points for creativity. Results, not so much.

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