Trump fires Bolton, citing strong disagreements

September 10, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has fired National Security Adviser John Bolton due to strong disagreements and will name a replacement next week.

The announcement comes after months of rumors that Trump and Bolton clashed on policy, including on how to denuclearize North Korea.

Some of their disagreements were exposed in public, with Trump playing down North Korea’s short-range ballistic missile tests but Bolton calling them out as violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Only minutes later Bolton posted his own tweet, appearing to dispute the president’s account of his dismissal.

“I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow,’” he said.

Bolton was appointed as Trump’s third national security adviser in April 2018 and advocated a hardline stance on regimes such as North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

He is widely known to have advised Trump, along with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to walk out of his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam in February after Pyongyang offered to dismantle only its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon.

Bolton is also known to have had disagreements with Pompeo.

The top U.S. diplomat acknowledged as much, saying there were “many times” they had different views.

“But I don’t think any leader around the world should make any assumption that because some one of us departs, that President Trump’s foreign policy will change in a material way,” Pompeo said at a press conference at the White House.

At the third meeting between Trump and Kim at the inter-Korean border on June 30, Bolton was not present in the room, instead flying to Mongolia on a separate official visit.

Bolton’s removal could have implications for U.S.-North Korea denuclearization negotiations.

On Monday, Pyongyang offered to resume talks with Washington in late September, and if held, they would mark the first formal negotiations since the breakdown of the Hanoi summit.

“The end of Bolton’s tenure as national security adviser may have more to do with U.S. foreign policy challenges concerning Iran, Afghanistan and Venezuela. But the timing could be convenient for U.S. diplomacy with North Korea,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, noting that Pyongyang has made its disdain for Bolton clear.

“Kim Jong-un can spin this personnel change in Washington as a win in North Korean domestic politics. That would increase the likelihood of denuclearization talks restarting soon,” he said.

The new national security adviser will be picked from a large pool of potential candidates, but U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, the lead negotiator in denuclearization talks, could be a strong choice, according to Harry Kazianis, senior director at the Center for the National Interest.

Biegun “already has decades of government and foreign policy expertise,” he said, adding that Douglas MacGregor, a favorite on Fox News and a retired U.S. Army colonel, would also be worth consideration given his alignment to Trump’s restrained foreign policy vision.

In the meantime, Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman will serve as the acting national security adviser, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters.