Cab­i­net re­ceives draft bud­get, set to de­cide ju­di­cial ap­point­ments

Trump even­tu­ally grew weary of ad­viser’s bu­reau­cratic knife-fight­ing

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ghinwa Obeid

BEIRUT: Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ali Hasan Khalil Wed­nes­day re­ferred the draft 2020 state bud­get to the Cab­i­net gen­eral sec­re­tar­iat, a source close to the min­is­ter has con­firmed.

Khalil’s move comes af­ter he an­nounced ear­lier this week that the draft would be dis­cussed by Cab­i­net next week.

Par­lia­ment in July rat­i­fied the 2019 state bud­get, which sought to ad­dress Le­banon’s fis­cal woes by re­duc­ing the deficit-to-GDP ra­tio, which stood at more than 11 per­cent in 2018, to 7 per­cent.

The 2020 bud­get is ex­pected to fur­ther re­duce the deficit. Ac­cord­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion, Cab­i­net should send the bud­get to Par­lia­ment in Oc­to­ber. Par­lia­ment then has un­til the end of the year to pass it.

Speaker Nabih Berri told law­mak­ers at his Ain al-Tineh res­i­dence that he had re­quested that Khalil present the draft “out of re­spect” to those dates.

Dur­ing his weekly meet­ing, Berri also ap­peared to be un­sat­is­fied with the pace of im­ple­ment­ing eco­nomic de­ci­sions that have al­ready been agreed on, say­ing that things have been “slow.”

On Aug. 9, a team of eco­nomic ex­perts joined a high-level meet­ing held at Baabda Palace in or­der to draw up a blue­print to res­cue the coun­try’s econ­omy.

That meet­ing was fol­lowed by an­other ear­lier this month, at which the at­ten­dees de­clared a state of eco­nomic emer­gency.

Dur­ing the Septem­ber meet­ing, Aoun presented the eco­nomic blue­print, which gained the ap­proval of all par­tic­i­pants, ex­cept Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Ge­mayel, a source at Baabda Palace told The Daily Star at the time.

WASH­ING­TON: John Bolton was in Mon­go­lia.

More than 1,930 kilo­me­ters away, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump or­ches­trated an image for the world’s front pages by be­com­ing the first U.S. pres­i­dent to set foot in North Korea, shaking hands with Kim Jong Un on the north side of the demil­i­ta­rized zone. The dis­tance was telling. Bolton, a long­time critic of diplo­macy with North Korea, had sched­uled his foray to Mon­go­lia weeks be­fore Trump’s im­promptu in­vi­ta­tion to meet Kim.

But the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser’s iso­la­tion at such a high-pro­file mo­ment un­der­scored the grow­ing dis­con­nect be­tween the two men.

Their re­peated clashes on pol­icy and style reached an ex­cla­ma­tion point Tues­day when Trump ousted Bolton with a tweet.

This ac­count of how their re­la­tion­ship un­rav­eled is based on interviews with current and for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and Repub­li­cans close to the White House. They spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to discuss pri­vate de­lib­er­a­tions.

It was a mar­riage that was never go­ing to last: Trump and Bolton rarely saw eye to eye on global hotspots. The na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser held far more hawk­ish views than the “Amer­ica First” pres­i­dent on mat­ters like Iran, North Korea and Afghanista­n.

“John Bolton is ab­so­lutely a hawk,” Trump told NBC in June. “If it was up to him, he’d take on the whole world at one time, OK? But that doesn’t matter be­cause I want both sides.”

Trump does value dis­agree­ment and jock­ey­ing among his staff. But he came to be­lieve that Bolton’s pres­ence spooked for­eign lead­ers. And he even­tu­ally grew weary of the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser’s bu­reau­cratic knife-fight­ing.

By the spring, Bolton found himself cut out of im­por­tant White House meet­ings and the pres­i­dent’s per­ceived diplo­matic tri­umphs, in­clud­ing the his­toric visit to North Korea. As Trump met with Kim, Bolton was pho­tographed shaking hands with Mon­go­lia’s sec­re­tary of state – an image that de­cid­edly did not lead ca­ble news.

While the U.S. pres­i­dent’s visit to Kim was a spec­ta­cle largely of his own mak­ing, Bolton’s more mod­est out­reach to Mon­go­lia was sim­i­larly his own grand design, meant to check Rus­sian and Chi­nese in­flu­ence in cen­tral Asia.

The two trips en­cap­su­lated their op­pos­ing world views.

In the hours be­fore Bolton left Trump in Seoul to head for Ulaan­baatar, Bolton was in a meet­ing with the pres­i­dent in which Trump paid trib­ute to the of­fi­cials with him – or at least tried to.

“And Sec­re­tary of State Pom­peo is here,” Trump said. “Mike Bolton – John Bolton – is here.”

Re­porters spot­ted Bolton glow­er­ing at the slight. It would not be the last. Trump never liked Bolton’s mus­tache. The pres­i­dent has spent a ca­reer fixed on image, priz­ing strik­ing looks and fre­quently boast­ing about fam­ily mem­bers and Cab­i­net of­fi­cials who look like they “stepped out of cen­tral cast­ing.”

Bolton’s bushy mus­tache sim­ply didn’t fit the part.

Bolton, a for­mer am­bas­sador to the United Nations and then a fix­ture on Fox News as a na­tional se­cu­rity com­men­ta­tor, nearly en­tered the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign himself to push his hard-nosed for­eign pol­icy.

His neo­con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials never meshed with the iso­la­tion­ist vibe of Trump’s cam­paign but, dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion, there was Bolton strid­ing through the gilded lobby of Trump Tower to meet with the pres­i­dent-elect. Bolton didn’t get a job just then. Trump later told con­fi­dants that the hawk’s trade­mark mus­tache would never be a fit in his ad­min­is­tra­tion. But Trump kept an ad­mir­ing eye on Bolton’s fre­quent ca­ble TV ap­pear­ances, dur­ing which he of­ten de­fended the poli­cies of the pres­i­dent even when they ran counter to what he had preached for decades.

Trump’s first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Michael Flynn, resigned barely a month into the job and was soon charged with ly­ing to the FBI.

His sec­ond ad­viser, H.R. McMaster, grated on Trump’s nerves with his long-winded, de­tail-ori­ented pre­sen­ta­tions.

Bolton be­came the un­likely choice to be Trump’s third, thanks largely to the strength of his tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances.

But while TV helped Bolton get the job, it also helped him lose it.

As pressure mounted on the White House this sum­mer amid signs of an eco­nomic slow­down and grow­ing global dis­cord, Trump has in­creas­ingly pri­or­i­tized aides who are will­ing to de­fend him on tele­vi­sion.

Bolton was ten­ta­tively booked to ap­pear on a pair of Sun­day talk shows in late Au­gust but backed out, say­ing he was not com­fort­able de­fend­ing some of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans. That drew the pres­i­dent’s ire, ac­cord­ing to a White House of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the aide was not authorized to discuss pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

Trump was heard com­plain­ing about the can­cel­la­tions days later.

The pres­i­dent de­bated fir­ing Bolton for weeks, lis­ten­ing to the ad­vice of out­side al­lies like Fox News host Tucker Carl­son.

With time, he grew in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated with the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, who had be­come a vo­cal internal critic of po­ten­tial talks be­tween the U.S. pres­i­dent and lead­ers of Iran and, sep­a­rately, Afghanista­n’s Tal­iban. There were other irritants. Bolton broke with Trump in loudly con­demn­ing Rus­sia’s global ag­gres­sions. And last year 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 Daesh (ISIS) and Ira­nian in­flu­ence in the re­gion.

The two men spoke on the phone Mon­day night and it grew heated, as it of­ten did in the Oval Of­fice.

Ar­gu­ing over Afghanista­n, the pres­i­dent was an­gered by Bolton’s op­po­si­tion to the pres­i­dent’s scut­tled plan to host Tal­iban lead­ers at Camp David to bro­ker a peace deal.

The two men dif­fer over what happened next.

Trump tweeted Tues­day that he “in­formed John Bolton last night that his ser­vices are no longer needed at the White House.”

“I dis­agreed strongly with many of his sug­ges­tions,” Trump con­tin­ued, adding Bolton to a long list of aides fired via tweet.

But this time, there was re­turn fire just a few min­utes later.

“I of­fered to re­sign last night and Pres­i­dent Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow,’” Bolton re­torted via tweet.

Bolton’s de­par­ture was an­nounced barely 90 min­utes be­fore he was to hold a brief­ing at the White House with Pom­peo and Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, both of whom had re­peat­edly clashed with the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser. The brief­ing went ahead any­way.

“There were def­i­nitely places where Am­bas­sador Bolton and I had dif­fer­ing views about how to pro­ceed,” Pom­peo al­lowed.

A widely cir­cu­lated photo from the brief­ing ap­peared to sum up the mood sur­round­ing Bolton’s exit: Pom­peo and Mnuchin, flank­ing the podium, smil­ing broadly.

West Wing hall­ways can feel sur­pris­ingly nar­row, es­pe­cially when crammed with re­porters.

In the mo­ments af­ter Bolton’s fir­ing, nearly a dozen jour­nal­ists were clumped to­gether out­side press sec­re­tary Stephanie Gr­isham’s of­fice.

A Bolton ally, who spoke to re­porters on the con­di­tion of anonymity, ap­proached the group and de­clared: “I’m go­ing to say one thing, which is: Since Am­bas­sador Bolton has been na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser 17 months – 17 months to­day, ac­tu­ally – there have been no bad deals – Iran, North Korea, Syria, Afghanista­n, China – the list goes on. … Add Rus­sia. No bad deals,” they said.

Just then, Gr­isham ar­rived and eyed the crowd, sar­cas­ti­cally not­ing that the spin ses­sion was tak­ing place “right out­side my of­fice.”

Asked about the “bad deals” com­ment, Gr­isham was dis­mis­sive.

“I don’t know what that means,” she said, then smiled and added, “Sounds like some­body just try­ing to pro­tect him.” –

Bolton’s bushy mus­tache sim­ply didn’t fit the part.

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