Donald Trump ousts hawkish national security adviser John Bolton

By Zeke Miller and Deb Riechmann, Associated Press

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

The two men offered opposing accounts on Mr Bolton’s less than friendly departure.

Mr Trump tweeted that he told Mr Bolton on Monday night his services were no longer needed at the White House and Mr Bolton submitted his resignation on Tuesday morning.

Mr Bolton responded in a tweet of his own that he offered to resign on Monday “and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow'”.

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

One Republican familiar with the disagreements between Mr Trump and Mr Bolton said the adviser’s opposition to a possible meeting between Mr Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a precipitating factor in the dismissal.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been trying to broker such a meeting, possibly on the sidelines of the upcoming UN general assembly, in the hope of salvaging the international Iran nuclear deal that Mr Trump withdrew from.

Since joining the administration in the spring of last year, Mr Bolton has espoused scepticism about the president’s whirlwind rapprochement with North Korea and has advocated against Mr Trump’s decision last year to pull US troops out of Syria.

He masterminded a quiet campaign inside the administration and with allies abroad to persuade Mr Trump to keep US forces in Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State and Iranian influence in the region.

Mr Bolton was also opposed to Mr Trump’s now-scrapped notion to bring Taliban negotiators to Camp David last weekend to try to finalise a peace deal in Afghanistan.

In recent months, tensions have risen between Mr Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over influence in the president’s orbit and how to manage the president’s desire to negotiate with some of the world’s most unsavoury actors.

Mr Bolton and his National Security Council staff were also viewed warily by some in the White House who viewed them as more attuned to their own agendas than the president’s and some administration aides have accused Mr Bolton’s staff of being behind leaks of information embarrassing to Mr Trump.

Mr Bolton’s ousting came as a surprise to many in the White House.

Just an hour before Mr Trump’s tweet, the press office announced that Mr Bolton would join Mr Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a briefing.

A White House official said that Mr Bolton had departed the premises after Mr Trump’s tweet and would no longer appear as scheduled.

Mr Bolton was always an unlikely pick to be Mr Trump’s third national security adviser, with a world view seemingly ill-fit to the president’s isolationist “America First” pronouncements.

US President Donald Trump is watched by John Bolton (Evan Vucci/AP)

He has championed hawkish foreign policy views dating back to the Reagan administration and became a household name over his vociferous support for the Iraq War as the US ambassador to the UN under George W. Bush.

Mr Bolton briefly considered running for president in 2016, in part to make the case against the isolationism that Mr Trump would come to embody.

Still, Mr Trump has admired Mr Bolton for years, praising him on Twitter as far back as 2014.

Mr Trump has told allies he thinks Mr Bolton is “a killer” on television, where Bolton is a frequent face on Fox News, though the president has voiced some unhappiness about Mr Bolton’s trademark moustache, said a person familiar the president’s thinking but not permitted to reveal private discussions.

Mr Bolton was named Mr Trump’s third national security adviser in March 2018 after the departure of Army General H.R. McMaster.

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