WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he had fired his controversial national security adviser, John Bolton, after months of disagreements on key foreign policy issues, including Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.
In two tweets, Trump broke his relationship with one of the most well-known and criticized members of his team, a diehard hawk with an interventionist reputation who contributed to increasing tensions with Iran and put the White House on a battle footing vis-a-vis the “troika of tyranny” – Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
“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,” the president said in successive tweets.
“I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week,” Trump wrote.
Bolton did not delay in publicly releasing his own version of what had occurred, saying on his own Twitter account: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.’”
The ex-national security adviser then proceeded to send text messages to numerous journalists in Washington, including one of the anchors at Fox News – Trump’s favorite network – Brian Kilmeade, who read the missive on live TV, saying “John Bolton just texted me. Just now, he’s watching. He said ‘let’s be clear: I resigned.’”
CNN reported that Trump and Bolton on Monday evening discussed the president’s plan to meet with Taliban leaders at Camp David, an initiative that the president abruptly cancelled after the insurgent group mounted an attack in Afghanistan that killed a US soldier.
But White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham denied that differences over Afghanistan were “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The relationship between Trump and Bolton had been deteriorating at least since May, when the president showed signs of frustration over the lack of results up to that point in driving Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power, after the administration in January had begun an international campaign to move opposition leader Juan Guaido into the presidency.
Shortly before joining the White House team last year, Bolton had lobbied for going to war against North Korea and Iran, and he always viewed the process of semi-detente with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with a jaundiced eye, although Trump quickly made dealings with Pyongyang a priority issue in his foreign policy.
Trump’s clear desire to mount a similar dialogue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also irritated Bolton, a fiery defender of exerting maximum pressure on Tehran and who had openly lobbied for regime change there.
His departure two weeks before the United National General Assembly session sparked speculation that Trump may have wanted to dump Bolton to clear the way for a possible meeting in New York with Rouhani, who up to now has refused any such get-together.
“I don’t think any leader around the world should make any assumption that because someone of us departs that President Trump’s foreign policy will change in a material way,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a White House press conference on Tuesday.
Rumors about growing rows between Bolton and Pompeo had been gaining strength over the past week, and Pompeo said at the press conference that it was clear that he and the former national security adviser had disagreed at times, adding that Trump has the right to surround himself with the people he wants.