President Donald Trump’s frustration with John Bolton was apparently boiling for months before he suddenly fired his National Security adviser on Tuesday.
According to NBC News, Trump privately called H.R. McMaster, Bolton’s predecessor in the role, as his anger toward Bolton grew.
Trump looks to McMaster for advice
Many in Trump’s base were glad when Trump unceremoniously fired Bolton via tweet on Tuesday, more than a year and a half after Trump hired him. For a president like Trump, Bolton was never a natural fit: whereas Trump campaigned on ending wars, Bolton is known for being an unrepentant neoconservative and Iraq War plotter.
But Bolton’s firing wasn’t as impulsive as it appeared. In phone calls starting last fall and continuing until a few months ago, Trump began soliciting advice from McMaster on national security issues, including whom to pick for Defense secretary, as well as Iran. As tensions between Trump and Bolton escalated, Trump became angry at his adviser for trying to control policy on Iran and Venezuela, according to officials who talked to NBC.
Bolton’s desire for regime change in Iran clashed with Trump’s platform to end wars, and the president also didn’t like Bolton’s proposal to model North Korea policy on the Obama administration’s approach to Libya. Libya’s leader, Muammar Ghaddafi, was murdered in the Arab Spring eight years after he gave up his nuclear weapons program in 2003.
At one point, Trump put Bolton on a list of officials he wanted gone by the end of the year, according to The Washington Examiner, and the adviser was warned by White House aides in May or June — right around when America was teetering on the brink of open conflict with Iran — to stay away from the president.
Bolton’s team denied that any such warning took place, or that there was any acrimony between Bolton and Trump in private.
But according to NBC, Trump even told McMaster that he missed him — a remarkable fact that shows just how much Bolton had rattled the president, officials said, considering McMaster’s testy relationship with Trump. Like Bolton, McMaster was fired in a tweet, and Trump reportedly did mocking impressions of McMaster when he wasn’t around.
Trump excoriates “Mr. Tough Guy”
In his firing tweet Tuesday, Trump said that Bolton’s services were “no longer needed” and said that he and others in the White House “disagreed strongly” with Bolton, who has long been suspected of tilting Trump’s foreign policy in a more hawkish direction.
The president left no room for doubt about his differences with Bolton on Wednesday, when he gave the adviser his very own Trump-ian epithet — “Mr. Tough Guy” — and attacked Bolton for sundering efforts to make peace with North Korea, saying that Bolton’s proposed “Libya model” suggestion on North Korea “set us back” in his negotiations with Kim Jong Un, who was rattled by the implication that he would end up like Ghaddafi.
Trump also gave a stunning dressing down to Bolton for his support of the Iraq War, which Bolton has never apologized for promoting.
“As soon as he mentioned that, the Libyan model, what a disaster. Take a look at what happened to Gadhafi,” Trump said, according to The Hill. “I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that. And he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that’s not a question of being tough. That’s a question of being not smart to say something like that. And it set us back.”
The president went on: “You know John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough he got us into Iraq…but he’s actually somebody I had a very good relationship with. But he wasn’t getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important.”
While Bolton says that he resigned of his own volition, Trump insisted that he fired him on Monday. “I will be naming a new National Security [adviser] next week,” the president tweeted Sunday.