President Donald Trump fired his third national security adviser, John Bolton, with whom he had serious disagreements on Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and other global challenges.
The two men offered opposing account on Bolton's less than friendly departure.
Trump tweeted Tuesday that he told Bolton Monday night "his services are no longer needed at the White House." He said Bolton submitted his resignation on Tuesday morning.
U.S. & World
"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," Trump said on Twitter.
Shortly after Trump's tweet, Bolton took to Twitter to respond to the president's characterization of the break, saying he had "offered to resign last night" but that Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow."
Bolton later told NBC News' Peter Alexander that Trump never asked for his resignation "directly or indirectly," and after sleeping on it "resigned this morning."
Bolton had opposed a peace agreement with the Taliban, which collapsed after Trump canceled a secret meeting at Camp David he had arranged with Taliban and Afghan leaders.
According to The Associated Press, Bolton had been against the agreement as it was written and did not believe the Taliban could be trusted. He had advised the president to draw down the U.S. force to 8,600 — enough to counter terror threats — and “let it be” until a better deal could be hammered out, the AP reported.
Bolton had been arrayed against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, had been talking to the Taliban leaders over the last 10 months and who had announced an agreement “in principle.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had been traveling with Trump Monday, said reports of Bolton's opposition to a now-scrapped weekend meeting with the Taliban at Camp David was a "bridge too far" for Trump, according to The Associated Press.
In July, NBC News noted that two months before Bolton took his current job, he had argued for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea — even as Trump was meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. When Trump crossed into North Korean territory in July — and Bolton was 1,200 miles away in Mongolia — it was another sign of how out of step Bolton apparently was in the White House, NBC News wrote.
Trump had acknowledged that Bolton was a hawk, with whom he did not always see eye to eye, but had said that he retained confidence in his national security adviser.
Despite their differences, Bolton had influenced policy within the administration, NBC News wrote. He advocated economic sanctions on Iran and the Maduro government in Venezuela, but even there was faulted by Trump when the steps did not quickly bring about Maduro’s fall.
Pompeo said on Tuesday that Trump had been clear that he was willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani "with no preconditions," a move Bolton had opposed and which could take place on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later this month.
Meanwhile, Iran took credit for Bolton's departure, the AP reported. Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, said Bolton's dismissal was the result of Iran's resistance to Trump's maximum pressure campaign and proof that Iran was able to "manage" U.S. policies on Iran.
Known for his "walrus mustache," Bolton was a staunch neo-conservative, a supporter of the 2003 Iraq war who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. He was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the second President Bush.
Bolton was Trump’s third national security adviser. The first, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The second, H.R. McMaster, left in March 2018 after his own disagreements with the president. Trump said he'll name a new national security adviser "next week."
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said deputy national security advisor Charles Kupperman will replace Bolton as the acting national security advisor.
Bolton was among a number of Fox News contributors who joined the administration. Other TV-land additions included State Department star Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor; communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp and Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh. The latter two are both former Fox commentators. All three left their posts this year.
Bolton's departure came as a surprise to many in the White House. Just an hour before Trump's tweet, the press office announced the Bolton would join Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a briefing. A White House Official told the AP that Bolton had left the premises after Trump's tweet and would no longer appear as scheduled.
Pressed about Bolton's departure during Tuesday's White House briefing, Pompeo said the president is "entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment," adding "when the president makes a decision like this, he’s well within his rights to do so."
Sen. Chris Murphy, the Democrat from Connecticut, criticized the turnover in the president's foreign policy team, the AP reported.
"John Bolton was the wrong choice and the silver lining to this instability is that there will be fewer people whispering war chants in the president's ear," said Murphy. "But no one of any quality is going to take a job in the nation's national security cabinet so long as everyone's head is permanently hovering slightly above the chopping block."
But Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 nominee for president, called Bolton's ouster, "an enormous loss for the country and for the administration," according to the AP.
He added that "in decision making you want people who disagree and who offer a very different perspective."