Bolton ousted af­ter clashes with Trump

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WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day re­moved John Bolton, his third na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, af­ter dis­putes over how to han­dle for­eign-pol­icy chal­lenges in­clud­ing those in Iran, North Ko­rea and Afghanista­n.

Trump dis­closed the de­par­ture in a Twit­ter mes­sage, say­ing he would name a re­place­ment as early as next week. In the mean­time, the White House said Charles Kup­per­man, the deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, would serve in an act­ing ca­pac­ity.

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

But Bolton quickly dis­puted the pres­i­dent’s ac­count.

“Let’s be clear, I re­signed, hav­ing of­fered to do so last night,” Bolton said in a text mes­sage to The Wash­ing­ton Post. “I will have my say in due course. But I have given you the facts on the res­ig­na­tion. My sole con­cern is US na­tional se­cu­rity.”

Bolton also re­sponded to Trump on Twit­ter. “I of­fered to re­sign last night and Pres­i­dent Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it to­mor­row,’” he wrote.

Bolton’s let­ter of res­ig­na­tion, dated Tues­day, was only two sen­tences long. He wrote: “Dear Mr. Pres­i­dent, I hereby re­sign, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, as as­sis­tant to the pres­i­dent for na­tional se­cu­rity af­fairs. Thank you for hav­ing af­forded me this op­por­tu­nity to serve our coun­try.” He signed the let­ter “Sin­cerely, John R. Bolton.”

Ten­sion be­tween Bolton and other of­fi­cials has flared in re­cent months over in­flu­ence in the pres­i­dent’s or­bit and how to man­age his de­sire to ne­go­ti­ate with some of the U.S.’ ad­ver­saries.

While Bolton tweeted that he of­fered to re­sign Mon­day evening, the ac­tual time of his of­fer was Mon­day af­ter­noon, in a meet­ing in the Oval Of­fice with the pres­i­dent be­fore Trump flew to North Carolina for a po­lit­i­cal rally, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sion who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to re­veal in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions.

Bolton then con­sid­ered his res­ig­na­tion into Mon­day evening and gave a short let­ter to Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil staff mem­bers on Tues­day, the peo­ple said.

A former se­nior of­fi­cial said act­ing Chief of Staff Mick Mul­vaney, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence con­cluded that Bolton had leaked in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions sur­round­ing a planned meet­ing at Camp David last week­end in which Trump would have met with Tal­iban rep­re­sen­ta­tives as a step to end­ing the 18-year war in Afghanista­n. Trump can­celed the se­cret meet­ing via Twit­ter on Satur­day evening.

Trump was in­fu­ri­ated at the idea that Bolton was try­ing to make him­self look good, the of­fi­cial said.

Bolton has in­sisted to col­leagues and con­fi­dants that he had done no such thing. Bolton’s al­lies viewed the ac­cu­sa­tion as a way to “knife John on the way out,” one per­son close to him said, call­ing it “flatly un­true.”

Bolton had ar­gued against the U.S.-Tal­iban ne­go­ti­a­tions for months, say­ing that the Tal­iban could not be trusted and that Trump could achieve his chief aim in Afghanista­n — the with­drawal of U.S. troops — with­out any agree­ment with the mil­i­tants.

Since join­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion in the spring of 2018, Bolton also has es­poused skep­ti­cism about the pres­i­dent’s whirl­wind rap­proche­ment with North Ko­rea and did not like Trump’s re­peated meet­ings with its leader, Kim Jong Un, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said.

He also re­cently be­came a vo­cal in­ter­nal critic of po­ten­tial talks be­tween Trump and Iran, of­fi­cials have said.

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.

Trump reg­u­larly mocked Bolton as a war­mon­ger, some­times tick­ing off the names of coun­tries and jok­ing that Bolton would want to in­vade them, cur­rent and former se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said.

Trump in the past has joked about the per­cep­tion that Bolton was on thin ice, say­ing in May that he ap­pre­ci­ated hear­ing Bolton’s views even though he of­ten dis­agreed with them.

“It doesn’t mat­ter,” Trump said, not­ing that only he makes de­ci­sions.

But Bolton’s ouster none­the­less came as a sur­prise to many in the White House. Just an hour be­fore Trump’s tweet, the press of­fice an­nounced that Bolton would join Pom­peo and Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin in a brief­ing on an ex­ec­u­tive or­der ex­pand­ing ways to counter ter­ror­ism. He did not make an ap­pear­ance.

Pom­peo, who read­ily ac­knowl­edged dis­agree­ments with Bolton, told re­porters that “the pres­i­dent’s en­ti­tled to the staff that he wants at any mo­ment.”

“He should have peo­ple he trusts and val­ues, and whose ef­forts and judg­ments ben­e­fit him in de­liv­er­ing Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy,” Pom­peo said.

“There were def­i­nitely places that Am­bas­sador Bolton and I had dif­fer­ent views about how we should

pro­ceed,” Pom­peo said. Asked whether he was blind­sided by the de­ci­sion, Pom­peo said, “I’m never sur­prised,” as he and Mnuchin grinned.

Trump is likely to con­sider Stephen Biegun, the lead en­voy on North Ko­rea, and Brian Hook, the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s point per­son on Iran, among pos­si­ble re­place­ments, cur­rent and former ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said.

Other po­ten­tial can­di­dates in­clude Dou­glas Macgre­gor, a re­tired Army of­fi­cer whose con­ser­va­tive com­men­tary has in­cluded praise for Trump’s ap­proach on Iran, and Richard Grenell, the am­bas­sador to Ger­many and a one­time Fox News con­trib­u­tor, cur­rent and former of­fi­cials and out­side Trump ad­vis­ers said.

Three other cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion fig­ures are also in the mix, a se­nior White House of­fi­cial said: Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of­fi­cials Ricky Wad­dell and Matt Pot­tinger and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Keith Kel­logg.

Macgre­gor met re­cently with Mul­vaney to dis­cuss the po­ten­tial of an ad­min­is­tra­tion job, two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the meet­ing said.


Bolton’s de­par­ture caught al­lies and ad­ver­saries of­f­guard. Sen. Mitt Rom­ney, R-Utah, called the news “an ex­tra­or­di­nary loss for our na­tion and the White House.”

“John Bolton is a bril­liant man with decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in for­eign pol­icy,” he said. “His point of view was not al­ways the same as every­body else in the room. That’s why you wanted him there.

The fact that he was a con­trar­ian from time to time was an as­set, not a li­a­bil­ity.”

But the de­par­ture was ap­plauded by Re­pub­li­cans like Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky who have tried to push Trump away from for­eign in­ter­ven­tion.

“The threat of war world­wide goes down ex­po­nen­tially with John Bolton out of the White House,” Paul told re­porters. “I think his ad­vo­cacy for regime change around the world is a naive world­view, and I think that the world will be a much bet­ter place with new ad­vis­ers to the pres­i­dent.”

“I think fun­da­men­tally, Pres­i­dent Trump and Bolton have dif­fer­ent world­views,” said Paul, a mem­ber of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee.

Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham, R-S.C., said Trump de­served a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser “he has con­fi­dence in.”

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

Democrats seized on the lat­est turnover in the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“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 Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., 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.”

Sen. Chris Mur­phy, D-Conn., a mem­ber of the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, lamented that “we’re now headed for our fourth na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser in less than three years.”

“This re­volv­ing door of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship is dev­as­tat­ing to our na­tion’s se­cu­rity as our al­lies now turn to more sta­ble na­tions — like China and Rus­sia — as our for­eign pol­icy in­fra­struc­ture falls apart,” he said.

The Ira­nian gov­ern­ment, mean­while, 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 said in a tweet. Tehran refers to U.S. sanc­tions as “eco­nomic ter­ror­ism.”

But Pom­peo re­jected the idea that Bolton’s de­par­ture would lead to a shift in ap­proach.

“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,” he said.

The New York Times/TOM BREN­NER

John Bolton, long­time Re­pub­li­can hawk, said Tues­day about his de­par­ture as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser: “I will have my say in due course . ... My sole con­cern is U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity.”

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