John Bolton out as Trump's 3rd national security adviser
Trump says he fired him last night, Bolton says he offered to resign
National security adviser John Bolton is shown talking to reporters in Washington in May. Bolton lasted 19 months in the role before his departure. (The Associated Press)
President Donald Trump said Tuesday via Twitter that he had fired national security adviser John Bolton and will name a replacement next week.
"I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration," said Trump, without getting into specifics.
Bolton, in his own tweet, contradicted the president's version of events. He said he offered to resign on Monday night and was told, "Let's talk about it tomorrow."
The timing of Trump's announcement came as a surprise, given that an hour earlier the White House had announced a Tuesday press briefing on an unspecified briefing, which was to feature Bolton alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Bolton, 70, served in the administration of George W. Bush as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and earlier in his career in various capacities in the Republican administrations of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
Trump's next national security adviser will be the fourth of his administration.
This is, again, like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The problem is not all the staff that have been let go. It's the captain of the ship.
- Ted Lieu, Democratic congressman
His first choice, Michael Flynn, was gone after three weeks for lying to the administration — and subsequently, the FBI — over contacts with Russia during the Trump transition to government.
Army Gen. H.R. McMaster succeeded Flynn, and stayed in the role until March 2018.
Another change for foreign policy team
Bolton's hiring to succeed McMaster raised some eyebrows, given a world view seemingly ill-fit to the president's isolationist "America First" pronouncements.
Bolton has espoused hawkish foreign policy views and gave vociferous support for the Iraq War under George W. Bush. Bolton even briefly considered running for president in 2016, in part to make the case against the isolationism that Trump would come to embody.
Inside the administration he advocated caution on the president's whirlwind rapprochement with North Korea and against Trump's decision last year to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. He masterminded a quiet campaign inside the administration and with allies abroad to convince Trump to keep U.S. forces in Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as Iranian influence in the region.
Bolton was also opposed to Trump's now-scrapped notion to bring Taliban negotiators to Camp David to try to finalize a peace deal in Afghanistan.
Bolton's exit continues the dizzying pass of change in the administration, which has included the remaking of Trump's foreign policy team. UN ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of Defence James Mattis both departed within the past year, while Pompeo has been on the job for 20 months, having succeeded Rex Tillerson.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on Aug. 20 in the Oval Office as Bolton looks on. The two men offered different accounts of Bolton's departure. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Within the White House, Trump is now working with his third chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
The latest change prompted a flurry of reaction on Capitol Hill.
Justin Amash, the Republican congressman who is now an independent after criticizing the administration, characterized Bolton as a bad hire, while his California Democrat colleague Ted Lieu reserved most of his criticism for Trump.
"This is, again, like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said Lieu. "The problem is not all the staff that have been let go. It's the captain of the ship."
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a frequent critic of U.S. military adventurism abroad, praised Bolton's departure as a "necessary action."
"The President has great instincts on foreign policy and ending our endless wars," said Paul. "He should be served by those who share those views."