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John Bolton: Trump’s national security adviser is out


John BoltonImage copyright EPA

US President Donald Trump has announced he fired his hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton, adding that he disagreed “strongly” with him.

“I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning,” Mr Trump tweeted, saying he will appoint a replacement next week.

But Mr Bolton insisted he had quit, and vowed to have his say “in due course”.

Appointed in April 2018, he was Mr Trump’s third national security adviser after Michael Flynn and HR McMaster.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters: “[The president] didn’t like a lot of his policies, they disagree.”

She said the president had asked for Mr Bolton’s resignation on Monday night, and it was delivered on Tuesday morning.

What is Bolton saying?

But moments after Mr Trump’s tweet, Mr Bolton took to Twitter to offer a different version of events.

He maintained he had actually offered his resignation, but Mr Trump told him “let’s talk about it tomorrow”.

As the news broke, Mr Bolton texted a Fox News host live on TV to insist he had resigned as national security adviser.

He texted Washington Post reporter Robert Costa that “I will have my say in due course” and “my sole concern is US national security”.

Just two hours before his departure was announced, Mr Bolton had been due to host a White House briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mr Bolton was spotted outside the West Wing on Tuesday morning, but he reportedly departed without escort after Mr Trump’s tweet.

The new acting national security adviser will be Charles Kupperman, who was a deputy to Mr Bolton, the White House told the BBC.

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Media captionUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responds to John Bolton firing

What are White House sources saying?

Sources said that the National Security Council, which advises the president, had become a separate entity within the White House under Mr Bolton.

A former senior Trump administration official, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC: “He [Bolton] operates separately from the rest of the White House.”

According to the official, Mr Bolton did not attend meetings, and followed his own initiatives.

“He’s running his own show,” said the official.

Image copyright Getty Images

A White House official told the BBC’s US partner, CBS News. “Bolton has his priorities. He didn’t ask the president ‘What are your priorities?’ They’re Bolton’s priorities.”

A former senior administration official told CBS that Mr Bolton’s “his way or the highway” approach infuriated many people inside the White House, including the president.

The anonymous source said the former national security adviser had “got too big for his britches” and “doesn’t play well in the sandbox”.

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Media captionSpeaking in May 2019, Trump said “I actually temper” John Bolton

In the past month, a source familiar with the situation told CBS the White House drumbeat to oust Mr Bolton had grown louder.

Sources say it was known at the White House over the past two weeks that Mr Bolton would be “the next one removed”.

BBC White House reporter Tara McKelvey says she once asked Mr Bolton about his relationship with the president, and the national security adviser simply burst out laughing.

An untenable situation

John Bolton was always an unusual fit in the Trump White House. While he was an animated personality on Fox News – clearly endearing him to the president – he was also an outspoken foreign policy hawk working for a man who campaigned against international adventurism.

Mr Bolton was a strong supporter of the Iraq War, for instance, while the president has called the conflict one of the greatest US military blunders.

On topics like North Korea and Russia, the president’s conciliatory position when Mr Bolton arrived in April 2018 was clear – and clearly contrary to the long-time foreign policy hand. Add disagreements on Afghanistan negotiations and Iran confrontation, and it created an untenable situation.

Mr Trump’s third national security adviser in as many years has been on the outs for some time. He did not join the president at meeting with Kim Jong-un, and phoned-in his objections to a Camp David event with the Taliban while in Poland last week.

There appears to be disagreement over whether Mr Bolton was fired or resigned. One way or another, a change was coming – even if just yesterday, Mr Trump had tweeted that reports of “turmoil in the White House” were created by the “Dishonest Media”.

Why did Trump and Bolton disagree?

Mr Bolton, a leading foreign policy hawk, was the chief architect of Mr Trump’s hardline stance against Iran.

But he had also argued less successfully for a tougher approach on North Korea, Russia and Afghanistan.

Mr Bolton was blamed by US officials for the collapse of a summit in February between Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam by advocating a list of uncompromising demands that Pyongyang rejected.

Mr Bolton had also opposed peace talks with the Taliban, which Mr Trump scrapped at the weekend after inviting the group to the US.

The president’s overtures to the militants drew criticism especially because of the timing close to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, Mr Bolton had argued that inviting a US-designated terror group to Camp David – the presidential retreat outside Washington – would “set a terrible precedent”.

Mr Bolton had a reputation as a warmonger, and Mr Trump once reportedly joked in an Oval Office meeting that “John has never seen a war he doesn’t like”.

Earlier this year, Mr Trump was reportedly angry with the failure of US policy in Venezuela, complaining that Mr Bolton had misled him about how easy it would be to replace President Nicolás Maduro, who has clung to power.

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