AT 9/11 MEMO­RIAL, MEM­O­RIES OF LOSS STILL SEAR

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John Bolton was fired by Trump tweet — or maybe he quit first — leav­ing Repub­li­can Florida Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Ru­bio won­der­ing about the U.S. stance on Venezuela.

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEX DAUGH­ERTY adaugh­[email protected]­clatchydc.com

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WASH­ING­TON

Sen. Rick Scott was sup­posed to meet with Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John Bolton Tues­day af­ter­noon, the lat­est in an on­go­ing ef­fort by Florida Repub­li­cans try­ing to squeeze Venezue­lan leader Ni­colás Maduro out of power.

Then came the pres­i­den­tial tweet. Don­ald Trump’s lat­est high-pro­file fir­ing via Twitter, com­plete with a Twitter re­but­tal from Bolton just min­utes later, caught

Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton off guard and could be a blow to Venezuela hawks like Scott and Sen.

Marco Ru­bio, also of

Florida.

“I did not see it,” Scott said, when he was in­formed by a re­porter of Bolton’s ouster. “I have a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Bolton. I was sup­posed to talk to him at two o’clock. I hope that they [the White House] can con­tinue to com­mit to do ev­ery­thing we can to get rid of Maduro. I’ve had a very good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Bolton whether it’s talk­ing about Venezuela, Cuba or Hong Kong.”

Ru­bio also said he had a good re­la­tion­ship with Bolton but added that it’s up to Trump to de­cide who works in the White House.

“We worked very well with him and in my view he did a good job, but ul­ti­mately that’s the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to make,” Ru­bio said. “He has a right to have peo­ple around him that he wants.”

Ru­bio wasn’t sure what Bolton’s ouster meant for Venezuela pol­icy eight months af­ter the U.S. rec­og­nized Juan Guaidó as the coun­try’s le­git­i­mate leader and be

gan ratch­et­ing up sanc­tions on Maduro’s in­ner cir­cle.

“I don’t know, nor do I know enough about what the cir­cum­stances were be­hind it, so we’ll ob­vi­ously see here in the next few days,” Ru­bio said. “It’s my per­sonal view that he did a good job, but he didn’t work for me, he worked for the pres­i­dent.”

Maduro re­mains in con­trol of Venezuela’s mil­i­tary and bu­reau­cracy de­spite ef­forts by Guaidó to oust Maduro amid a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis and ram­pant in­fla­tion.

Even the White House was un­aware of Bolton’s im­mi­nent ouster on Tues­day morn­ing, send­ing out a no­tice just be­fore 11 a.m. that Bolton would brief re­porters along with Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

An hour later, Trump tweeted, “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. I thank John very much for his ser­vice. I will be nam­ing a new Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor next week.”

Bolton dis­puted the na­ture of his ouster in his own tweet min­utes later.

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

Repub­li­can op­po­nents of in­ter­ven­tion in Venezuela cheered the move.

Ken­tucky Sen. Rand Paul said Trump “de­serves to have some­one around him who agrees with his pol­icy.”

“The threat of war world­wide goes down ex­po­nen­tially with John Bolton out of the White House,” Paul said, call­ing Bolton’s “ad­vo­cacy for regime change around the world a naive world­view.”

“The world will be a much bet­ter place with new ad­vis­ers to the pres­i­dent and hope­fully some­body who’s ac­tu­ally lis­ten­ing to what the pres­i­dent says when he says over and over again that he wants to bring Amer­ica’s long­est war to a close,” Paul said.

Other Repub­li­cans said the con­stant stream of fir­ings via tweet, a list that also in­cludes for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey and for­mer Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs Sec­re­tary David Shulkin, makes it harder to do their jobs.

“I think prob­a­bly se­na­tors [and] the coun­try looks for sta­bil­ity, con­sis­tency,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said. “And it’s another per­son out of the ad­min­is­tra­tion that we de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship, had a sense of where he was com­ing from and now he’s not there.”

Trump has long touted him­self as a dif­fer­ent style of Repub­li­can who is op­posed to for­eign in­ter­ven­tion around the world, though Venezuela ap­peared to be an ex­cep­tion.

Trump al­most as­suredly needs to win Florida in 2020 if he wants a sec­ond term, and his ad­vis­ers iden­ti­fied tough talk on Venezuela as an is­sue where he can rail against so­cial­ism and make in­roads with Venezue­lan and Cuban vot­ers in South Florida. The coun­try’s largest Venezue­lan com­mu­ni­ties are con­cen­trated in Mi­ami-Dade and Broward coun­ties.

Democrats blasted the chaotic na­ture of Bolton’s fir­ing. He had been in the role for 17 months.

“To­day’s ac­tion by the pres­i­dent is just the lat­est ex­am­ple of his govern­ment-by-chaos ap­proach and his rud­der­less na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer said in a state­ment. “When Am­bas­sador Bolton’s ex­treme views aren’t enough for you, the United States is headed for even more chaotic times.”

White House of­fi­cials on Tues­day ac­knowl­edged the pres­i­dent’s frus­tra­tion with Bolton’s un­ful­filled prom­ises on Venezuela pol­icy, in­clud­ing pre­dic­tions that Maduro would step down in Venezuela over a year ago. But one of­fi­cial cau­tioned against as­sum­ing that, with Bolton gone, the ad­min­is­tra­tion will make any sud­den pol­icy shifts.

Trump has en­dorsed a strat­egy that gave Maduro’s aides in­cen­tives to turn on their boss and help with his ouster. Un­til that strat­egy bears fruit, the sanc­tions de­signed by Bolton will re­main in place, the of­fi­cial added.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo also told re­porters in a press brief­ing that his dis­agree­ments with Bolton are well-known. He did not spec­ify what those dis­agree­ments en­tailed re­gard­ing Venezuela.

Am­bas­sador to the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States, Car­los Tru­jillo, was also un­aware of Bolton’s fir­ing. At a press con­fer­ence at noon, Tru­jillo — who is from Mi­ami and a key fig­ure for ad­min­is­tra­tion ef­forts in Latin Amer­ica — was asked how Bolton’s fir­ing could im­pact U.S. Latin Amer­i­can pol­icy. Tru­jillo said he would have to check back with his team: “I haven’t heard of it.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham, who called for the U.S. mil­i­tary to en­ter Venezuela in May, said Trump de­serves a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor who shares the pres­i­dent’s world­view. While Gra­ham was with the pres­i­dent on Air Force One Mon­day night, he said he had no ad­vance warn­ing of Bolton’s fir­ing, though he knew there was fric­tion in their re­la­tion­ship.

“I think the pres­i­dent de­serves some­one he has con­fi­dence in,” Gra­ham said. “It’s clear to me that the re­la­tion­ship had soured and I hope he’ll pick a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor he has con­fi­dence in. I ap­pre­ci­ate John Bolton and he sees the world for the dan­ger­ous place that it is.”

McClatchy re­porters Emma Du­main, Lesley Clark, David Lightman, Michael Wilner and Bryan Lowry con­trib­uted to this re­port. El Nuevo Her­ald re­porter Nora Gámez Tor­res con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio

SPENCER PLATT Getty Im­ages

Bolton

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