Trump abruptly ousts Bolton

Na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, a critic on for­eign pol­icy moves, clashed with pres­i­dent

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Zeke Miller and Deb Riech­mann

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day abruptly forced out John Bolton, his hawk­ish na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser with whom he had strong dis­agree­ments on Iran, Afghanista­n and a cas­cade of other global chal­lenges.

The shake-up marked the lat­est de­par­ture of a prom­i­nent voice of dis­sent from the pres­i­dent’s in­ner cir­cle, as Trump has grown less ac­cept­ing of ad­vice con­trary to his in­stincts. It also comes at a try­ing mo­ment for Trump on the world stage, weeks ahead of the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly and as the pres­i­dent faces press­ing de­ci­sions on for­eign pol­icy is­sues.

Ten­sions be­tween Bolton, Trump’s third na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, and other of­fi­cials have flared in re­cent months over in­flu­ence in the pres­i­dent’s or­bit and how to man­age his de­sire to ne­go­ti­ate with some of the world’s most un­sa­vory ac­tors. Since join­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion in the spring of last year, Bolton has es­poused skep­ti­cism about the pres­i­dent’s whirl­wind rap­proche­ment with North Korea, and re­cently has be­come a vo­cal critic of po­ten­tial talks be­tween Trump and lead­ers of Iran and Afghanista­n’s Tal­iban.

Bolton also broke with Trump with his vo­cal con­dem­na­tion of Rus­sia’s global ag­gres­sions, and last year he mas­ter­minded a 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’s ma­neu­ver­ing at the time con­trasted with for­mer Sec­re­tary of De­fense Jim Mat­tis’ de­ci­sion to in­stead re­sign over Trump’s De­cem­ber with­drawal an­nounce­ment, which has been ef­fec­tively re­versed.

On Twitter, Trump and Bolton of­fered op­pos­ing ac­counts on the ad­viser’s less

than-friendly de­par­ture, fi­nal shots for what had been a frac­tious re­la­tion­ship al­most from the start.

Trump tweeted that he told Bolton on 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 ex­plained that he had “dis­agreed strongly” with many of Bolton’s sug­ges­tions as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, “as did oth­ers in the ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham, who had been trav­el­ing with Trump on Mon­day, said re­ports of Bolton’s op­po­si­tion to a now-scrapped week­end meet­ing with the Tal­iban at Camp David was a “bridge too far” for Trump.

And 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. French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron has been try­ing to bro­ker such a meet­ing, pos­si­bly on the side­lines of the up­com­ing U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly, in hopes of sal­vaging the in­ter­na­tional Iran nu­clear deal from which Trump with­drew.

“There were many times that Am­bas­sador Bolton and I dis­agreed. That’s to be sure,” said Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo on Tues­day. He added that Trump has been clear that he is will­ing to meet with Rouhani “with no pre­con­di­tions.”

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, who ap­peared with Pom­peo at the White House, vol­un­teered: “The pres­i­dent’s view of the Iraq War and Am­bas­sador Bolton’s was very dif­fer­ent.”

Bolton, a for­mer Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, has cham­pi­oned hawk­ish for­eign pol­icy views dat­ing 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.

Trump ini­tially supported the 2003 U.S. in­va­sion, but sub­se­quently be­came a critic.

The Ira­nian govern­ment hailed Bolton’s de­par­ture, and spokesman Ali Ra­biei said it might pave the way for warmer re­la­tions.

“By dis­missal of the big­gest sup­porter of war and eco­nomic ter­ror­ism, the White House will face less bar­rier to un­der­stand re­al­i­ties of Iran,” he tweeted. Tehran calls the U.S. sanc­tions on Iran “eco­nomic ter­ror­ism.”

Pom­peo said, “I don’t think any leader around the world should make any as­sump­tion that be­cause some one of us de­parts that Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­eign pol­icy will change in a ma­te­rial way.”

Bolton’s well-known for­eign pol­icy views and harsh rhetoric for U.S. foes had turned him into a con­ve­nient boogey­man for the likes of North Korea and Iran, which have as­sailed him in the me­dia.

His ouster sur­prised many in the White House.

Just an hour be­fore Trump’s tweet, the press of­fice an­nounced that Bolton would join Pom­peo and Mnuchin in a brief­ing on new Ira­nian sanc­tions. He did not.

As pres­sure has mounted amid global trou­bles and signs of an eco­nomic slow­down at home, Trump has in­creas­ingly fa­vored 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 with some of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans, and that drew the pres­i­dent’s ire, ac­cord­ing to a White House of­fi­cial not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions Sen. Chris Mur­phy, DConn., said turnover in Trump’s for­eign pol­icy team was a cause for worry.

“No one of any qual­ity is go­ing to take a job in the nation’s na­tional se­cu­rity Cabi­net so long as ev­ery­one’s head is per­ma­nently hov­er­ing slightly above the chop­ping block,” he said.

Trump said he would name a re­place­ment for Bolton next week.

Bolton was named to the post in March 2018 af­ter the de­par­ture of Army Gen. H.R. McMaster.

SERGEI GAPON/GETTY-AFP

In the lat­est shake-up at the White House, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton was forced out of his job by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day.

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