President Trump Fires John Bolton

President Trump took to Twitter late this morning to fire his third National Security Adviser.

President Trump has used Twitter to once again up-end his national security team, this time by firing his National Security Adviser John Bolton, apparently in response to disagreements over this week’s aborted meeting with the Taliban at Camp David:

WASHINGTON — President Trump fired John R. Bolton, his third national security adviser, on Tuesday amid fundamental disagreements over how to handle major foreign policy challenges like Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump announced the decision on Twitter. “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.”

His departure comes as Mr. Trump is pursuing diplomatic openings with two of the United States’ most intractable enemies, efforts that have troubled hard-liners in the administration, like Mr. Bolton, who view North Korea and Iran as profoundly untrustworthy.

The president has continued to court Kim Jong-un, the repressive leader of North Korea, despite Mr. Kim’s refusal to surrender his nuclear program and despite repeated short-range missile tests by the North that have rattled its neighbors. In recent days, Mr. Trump has expressed a willingness to meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran under the right circumstances, and even to extend short-term financing to Tehran, although the offer has so far been rebuffed.

To his admirers, Mr. Bolton was supposed to be a check on what they feared would be naïve diplomacy, a cleareyed realist who would keep a president without prior experience in foreign affairs from giving away the store to wily adversaries. But Mr. Trump has long complained privately that Mr. Bolton was too willing to get the United States into another war.

The tension between the men was aggravated in recent months by the president’s decisions to call off a planned airstrike on Iran in retaliation for the downing of an American surveillance drone and to meet with Mr. Kim at the Demilitarized Zone and cross over into North Korea.

Mr. Bolton favored the strike on Iran and publicly criticized recent North Korean missile tests that Mr. Trump brushed off. After the president arranged the DMZ meeting with Mr. Kim via a last-minute Twitter message, Mr. Bolton opted not to accompany him and instead proceeded on a previously scheduled trip to Mongolia.

The rift between the president and his national security adviser owed as much to personality as to policy. The president never warmed to him, a dynamic that is often fatal in this White House. Mr. Bolton also clashed with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

At its core, the schism reflected a deep-seated philosophical difference that has characterized the Trump presidency. While given to bellicose language, Mr. Trump came to office deeply skeptical of overseas military adventures and promising negotiations to resolve volatile conflicts. Mr. Bolton, however, has been one of Washington’s most outspoken hawks and unapologetic advocates of American power to defend the country’s interests.

More from The Washington Post:

President Trump announced Tuesday that he had fired his national security adviser, John Bolton, saying in tweets that he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions.”

“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump said.”I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service.”

Trump said he would name a replacement next week.

Bolton, a former diplomat and political commentator who came on board in April 2018, was Trump’s third national security adviser.

Trump’s harshly worded tweet made clear that long-simmering frustration with Bolton had boiled over. Bolton immediately took issue with Trump’s assertion that he was fired, saying that he had offered his resignation. “Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night,” Bolton told The Washington Post.

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

Bolton was scheduled to appear alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a White House briefing later Tuesday. Trump’s announcement came less than two hours before that event.

Here are the President’s tweets:

And here’s a tweet from John Bolton that makes it clear that his departure was not voluntary:

Bolton’s departure from the Administration appears to be connected primarily to the fact that the National Security Adviser was strenuously against the idea of inviting the Taliban to Camp David on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. It also appears that there are deeper-seated reasons for the departure related to Bolton’s support for a more aggressive foreign policy with regard to Iran, Afghanistan and other issues. Finally, there appears to have been a struggle for power between Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over who would have the most sway over American foreign policy. Clearly this indicates that Pompeo has won that fight.

What this means for the future direction of American foreign policy, but it will clearly have an impact in every part of the world from North Korea to Venezuela. On the surface, one might say that getting rid of Bolton is a positive development due to his more hawkish position on issues such as our policy toward Iran and other issues. At the same time, though, there is an argument to be made that Bolton was serving as a necessary counterweight to a President who seems inclined to engage in foreign policy stunts that accomplish nothing and only tend to elevate American enemies such as Kim Jong Un. In another universe, the dismissal of a foreign policy hardliner like Bolton is something that would be seen as a positive development. Given the haphazard nature of foreign policy under this President, though, and his tendency toward meaningless gestures like the meetings Given that, whether Bolton’s departure will be for ill or for good remains to be seen.

For his part, Daniel Larison is glad to see him go:

Whoever takes over as Bolton’s replacement will have a difficult job of repairing the damage that he did. Bolton presided over the most dysfunctional national security process in recent memory by design, and that compounded the administration’s existing foreign policy dysfunction. He pushed an extremely hawkish agenda that has led the U.S. closer to unnecessary war with Iran, disastrously committed the U.S. to regime change in Venezuela, and effectively torpedoed diplomatic engagement with North Korea. Most recently, he prevailed on Trump to kill the negotiations with the Taliban. He was a leading supporter of the cruel economic warfare that the U.S. has waged against Iran and Venezuela over the last year. The Trump administration’s foreign policy will still be a failed mess without him, but it will have one less fanatic involved in setting policy.

As a matter of instinct, I tend to agree with Larison. Bolton’s long history as a neocon who pushed for a confrontation around the world is well-known, but it’s also true that in some cases he served as a counterweight to a naive and dangerous foreign policy on the President’s part. This is especially true with respect to the Administration’s obsequious policy toward Noth Korea and the strategically stupid idea that was at the root of the aborted meeting with the Taliban. As for other areas, it’s fairly clear that President Trump didn’t need John Bolton to push him toward aggression toward Venezuela and Iran in particular.

In any case, the question now is who will replace Bolton and whether they will be any better or worse than Bolton, or McMaster, or Michael Flynn, the three National Security Advisers that this President has gone through in the past three years.

Update: Based on this report in The Week it appears that the Taliban meeting may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back:

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins is reporting Trump and Bolton “got into a bitter argument” last night about Trump’s plan to meet with Taliban leaders at Camp David over the weekend, just days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This meeting ultimately did not take place, with Trump saying he called it off after an attack in Kabul.

NBC News previously reported that Bolton “vehemently opposed” this idea, as did Vice President Mike Pence. Pence subsequently denied this reportCNN’s Jim Acosta reports a “factor in Bolton’s firing was that Trump and Pence were upset that Bolton’s team had made it sound as though the VP opposed the Taliban meeting at Camp David.”

More details as they become available.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, National Security, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Bolton was part of the Project for a New American Century…and everyone of the idiots involved in that should be permanently exiled.
    But once again Trump shows he hasn’t the balls to do it to anyone’s face, saying we’ll talk about it in the morning, then firing him on Twitter. Staff didn’t know about it because Bolton was still listed on a briefing for this morning.
    As Chrissy Tiegan said; #PresidentPussyAssBitch

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  2. Mu says:

    Explains why Flynn is trying to withdraw his plea – he figures his old job is available again.

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    Yet another smart guy too fkin stupid to realize he’d end up under the wheels of Trump’s bus. All that education! All those honors! And still too duh-duh-duh-dumb to realize he’d be humiliated and discarded like a used condom.

    #ETTD. Everything Trump Touches Dies. It’s like if you put a big poison ivy plant in the lobby of your building with a huge sign warning, Poison: Don’t Touch! And yet. Bolton is a war-mongering ass-crack of a human, but at least he knows how to find Afghanistan on a map, so of course he was a bit too clever to remain in the World’s Dumbest and Most Corrupt Cabinet. We’re at the point where proof of illiteracy and a felony record will be required to work in the Trump ‘administration.’

    My picks to replace Bolton:

    1) Jared. As corrupt and arrogant as Trump, useless and clueless, but perhaps not quite stupid enough for Trump: he at least knows how to buy a suit. Plus, can’t fire the boy.

    2) Stephen Miller. He’s a nativist, self-hating Jew, a sick man, a toxic, creepy mess of hatred and resentment. So he’s a keeper!

    3) Lindsey (the last gay man in the closet) Graham. No one grovels and debases himself like the Senator from South Carolina, either our shittiest state or merely top three, depending. No one will more willingly self-destruct. He won’t have to be thrown under the bus, he’ll slither there on command.

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  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The WH Press office says;

    “Last night, the POTUS said he wanted Bolton’s resignation on his tomorrow AM. Bolton delivered it.”

    Bolton says;

    “White House press secretary statement is flatly incorrect”.

    Circumstances aside…this should certainly distract from the Turnberry scandal.
    A different day, a different bit of chaos.

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  5. mattbernius says:

    Ultimately, this is a good thing. Bolton should never had been hired to begin with.

    As I wrote on the open topic thread: So the one place most of us has been thankfully wrong about Trump is that, while he let people like Bolton into the administration, he apparently had little to no appetite for direct military interventions*.

    Bluster, yes. Actually taking action, no.

    Again, I still think his overall foreign policy is terrible. But at least its not Bolton terrible.

    Frankly, my bet is the position stays empty until the election (or filled with a interim candidate).

    I also expect that Trump will get some type of fig leaf deal with the North Koreans now that will accomplish very little but will enable him to go into the elections saying he “got something.” I doubt anything will happen with Afghanistan or Iran.

    * – Unfortunately he has only increased our use of drones and removed any bits of transparency from that program and he continues to enable the Saudi’s in places like Yemen. So in those respects Trump took some of the worst aspects of the Obama administration and turned them up to 11. Still it could have been worse if Bolton had his way.

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  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    Hopefully this means Pompeo’s resignation will also be announced soon.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Lot’s of talk about Bolton’s position on the Camp David/Taliban fiasco and the leaks about the VP stance infuriating Trump.

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  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Hopefully this means Pompeo’s resignation will also be announced soon.

    I actually think this means Pompeo gets the rose and wins The Bachelor season 45.

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  9. Scott F. says:

    @michael reynolds:
    In light of #ETTD, I would support all three of your picks in rapid succession.

    @mattbernius:
    “…or filled with an interim candidate.” With > 75% turnover in key positions in his administration in less than one term, aren’t all Trump positions filled with an interim candidate?

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  10. Kathy says:

    Given the people Trump hires, and his very limited intelectual capacity, the denouement of every official’s tenure tends to be “Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.”

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  11. Franklin says:

    This may be the first time any of us believed John Bolton’s version of events.

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  12. Warren Peese says:

    I believe Bolton, that he offered his resignation. He’s not a serial liar like his boss.
    Of course Larison would say what he did about Bolton. He’s had a jones for the guy since 2004, and he’s wrong and hyperbolic and alarmist about Bolton’s “damage”. Bolton’s instincts were right about Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and the Taliban.

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  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Franklin:

    This may be the first time any of us believed John Bolton’s version of events.

    Hell…I waited to hear what the Taliban said about the Camp David meeting before believing this POTUS.

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    John Bolton is out.

    On the one hand, much relieved that the mustache of belligerency is gone.

    On the other hand, absolutely terrified of what will replace him.

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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Warren Peese:

    Bolton’s instincts were right about Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and the Taliban.

    That’s why they’re all monuments to democracy and freedom.

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  16. Gromitt Gunn says:

    This feels like an example of “the right result for the wrong reasons.”

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  17. al Ameda says:

    Even John Bolton gets thrown under the bus.

    Again, ad nauseum, everyone … everyone … who serves or does business with Donald Trump is eventually degraded or humiliated. He has the manure touch.

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  18. CSK says:

    @al Ameda: Everyone, it seems, but Ivanka and Jared.

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  19. Fortunato says:

    Next in line for National Security Adviser(s) – Diamond & Silk.

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  20. Robert C says:

    Now if we can get AIPAC to register under FARA and hope Netanyahu loses, maybe the Iran saber rattling will cease and desist.

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  21. Fortunato says:

    @Robert C:
    Re: if we can get AIPAC to register under FARA

    Considering how Trump’s affinity for the world’s most despotic has been embraced by the GOP (and NRA) en masse, the next step will be to get CPAC to register under FARA.

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  22. An Interested Party says:

    Next in line for National Security Adviser(s) – Diamond & Silk.

    Well hell, if Ben Carson is the head of HUD…

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  23. Mu says:

    Carson Tucker, as National Job Security Adviser

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  24. Moosebreath says:

    @mattbernius:

    “Ultimately, this is a good thing. Bolton should never had been hired to begin with.”

    Still not disagreeing, but I feel that it is not clear whether it is worse to have as National Security Adviser yet another yes man like Pompeo, or a person who will fight for his positions, even if they are horrible, like Bolton.

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  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    White House press secretary statement is flatly incorrect.

    So your story is that you simply resigned without giving notice or any particular reason for doing so? Ooooooookayyyyyyy.

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  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: Mnuchin’s not an interim. On the other hand roaches are really hard to get rid of.

    ETA: @ Fortunato: Heh, heh. heh.

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  27. DrDaveT says:

    “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation[…]”

    Has anyone else noticed that, for a guy who is allegedly so confident in his own judgment and who doesn’t need advisors, Trump is more prone to cite external agreement as support for his positions and actions than any other President? I can’t count how many times he’s added “…and many people agree…” or some similar formulation in the middle of a statement. Most of them are baldfaced lies, of course, but still…

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  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @DrDaveT: He needs validation for everything he does, even if he has to make it up.

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  29. mattBernius says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Still not disagreeing, but I feel that it is not clear whether it is worse to have as National Security Adviser yet another yes man like Pompeo, or a person who will fight for his positions, even if they are horrible, like Bolton.

    I am not suggesting having a “yes man” is good. But given his tendency away from direct armed conflict, I would prefer a yes man to an interventionist pushing for direct confrontations.

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  30. MarkedMan says:

    We shouldn’t lose sight that John Bolton was a washed up has-been that even his neocon brethren no longer had any respect for. He wasn’t being asked to be a foreign policy advisor to anyone, instead he was playing the colorful Fox News talking head, always good to stridently assert the most ridiculous position imaginable. And this unemployed third rater was literally the best Trump could find.

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  31. dazedandconfused says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I don’t think it matters, doesn’t really matter who’s in the NSC either. Trump appears to be informed primarily by FOX News.

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  32. liberal capitalist` says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yet another smart guy too fkin stupid to realize he’d end up under the wheels of Trump’s bus.

    Still, couldn’t have happened to a better guy.

    Bolton is a war pig. There are not enough graves to satisfy him. Given the opportunity, the entire middle east would be a blast zone… a large sheet of solidified molten glass.

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  33. Gustopher says:

    Once again, Trump achieves what common people merely dream of… who here would not love to fire John Bolton?

    Also, apparently Marla Maples was having a fling with Micheal Bolton while she was married to Donald Trump. Go figure.

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  34. Scott O says:

    @MarkedMan: Trump picked Bolton because he was a colorful Fox News talking head. And because the liberals, the Rinos, anyone sane thinks he’s nuts. So in that sense he was the best Trump could find. Same with picking Jeff Sessions. Trump gets revenge on “the elite”.

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  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @dazedandconfused: So in other words, the sky really is falling?

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  36. dazedandconfused says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    It’s Rupert Murdoch’s world, we just live on it.

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  37. An Interested Party says:

    It’s Rupert Murdoch’s world, we just live on it.

    An odious cancer for countries on three different continents…how different the world would be if he had never owned a media empire…

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