Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he has fired his national security adviser, John Bolton, saying he ‘disagreed strongly’ with him. But Bolton immediately contradicted him, insisting he had tried to quit first.
The resulting chaos gripped the West Wing for the balance of the day, with Trump pledging in a tweet to name Bolton’s successor next week – before the United Nations General Assembly meets.
The president clashed with Bolton about Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela, according to a Fox News Channel analysis.
The president wasted no time on Tuesday discussing who might get the job.
Charles Kupperman, Bolton’s deputy, is acting national security adviser. Bolton said in January that Kupperman ‘has been an advisor to me for more than thirty years.’ That, a White House aide said Tuesday, suggests Trump will sweep him out as part of a National Security Council housecleaning.
Two White House officials said Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell quickly emerged as a leading candidate to be Trump’s fourth national security adviser in less than three years. One source said the president brought his name up to members of his senior staff shortly after tweeting about Bolton’s dismissal.
Grenell was an early Trump backer and is the administration’s highest ranking openly gay official. A source close to Grenell said Tuesday that he knows ‘how to deliver in a tough post.’ A State Department official speculated that the president might choose him because ‘one of the most reliably hard-charging diplomats’ in the U.S. foreign service.
I tried to resign! Donald Trump and John Bolton became locked in a twitter war of words over the national security advisor’s departure, with Bolton saying he tried to quit and Trump saying he told him to resign. The aide was last seen in Poland last week
Out: ‘I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,’ the president said in a tweet. He had been Trump’s advisor since April last year, when they were seen in the Cabinet Room of the White House
A leading candidate to replace Bolton is Ric Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany; Grenell was an early Trump backer and is seen as ‘one of the most reliably hard-charging diplomats’ in the administration, according to a State Department source
Another White House official cautioned that since Grenell was Bolton’s chief spokesman at the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration, he could be seen as ‘fruit from the poisoned tree.’
Robert Blair, another potential Bolton successor, is a senior adviser to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Blair was in charge of national security programs for the White Houe Budget Office when Mulvaney was its director.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that Blair was in the mix. He did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Trump started the mad scramble with a pair of late morning tweets.
‘I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,’ the president said in a tweet two minutes before midday, and an hour and a half before Bolton was schedulde to participate in a briefing to reporters 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,’ Trump tweeted.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin held Monday afternoon’s briefing as scheduled. Pompeo told reporters that ‘there were many times where Ambassador Bolton and I disagreed, that’s to be sure.’
Pompeo added that the administration’s policies were the president’s, not Bolton’s. ‘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 would change in a material way,’ he said.
Presidnt Trump wasted no time discussing with senior West Wing staff who might be Bolton’s replacement, according to White House officials
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he and Bolton had different in significant ways on foreign policy, but refused during a White House briefing to get into specifics
In his own tweet sent a few minutes after Trump’s, apparently from somewhere on the White House’s own computer network, Bolton said the president blew him off when he tried to resign Monday night. He tweeted: ‘I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow”.’
He sent a text message to Fox News Channel host Brian Kilmeade, reading: ‘I resigned.’ Kilmeade read it on the air.
The squabbling versions of Bolton’s departure came after White House reporters were told that he, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin would brief them at 1: 30 p.m. in the press briefing room.
Bolton was seen as a war hawk who favored military intervention around the globe – a view that was at odds with Trump’s insistence that America’s troops should stop being ‘the world’s policemen.’
He clashed repeatedly with Pompeo over foreign policy and was recently sidelined during internal White House discussions about how to handle conflicts with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Bolton opposed Trump’s proposals for a troop drawdown in Afghanistan, and was a leading detractor inside the White House of a peace summit Trump planned, and later canceled, at Camp David.
The president called it off after a Taliban suicide bombing attack in Kabul killed 12 people, including an American soldier.
Battle of the tweets: John Bolton tweeted that he tried to quit before he was fired – and did so from the White House’s own network
Tensions between Bolton and Pompeo ramped up in recent weeks. The two men – the top foreign policy advisers to the president – rarely spoke outside of formal meetings, CNN has reported.
Bolton was also in periodic clashes with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Bolton, 70, entered the administration in April 2018 after Trump dispensed with his second national security adviser, three-star Army general H.R. McMaster.
He had been a prominent Fox News contributor with hawkish views in particular on the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal.
Trump sometimes joked about Bolton’s image as a warmonger, reportedly saying in one Oval Office meeting that ‘John has never seen a war he doesn’t like.’
But in recent months there had been whispers that Trump was losing patience with him.
When Trump went to South Korea at the end of June and crossed into the DMZ to meet Kim Jong-un, the first sitting president to meet a North Korean leader in the separation zone between the two countries, Bolton was in Mongolia.
TRUMP’S HIGH-PROFILE DEPARTURE LOUNGE
Here are just some of the top officials who have left Trump’s administration and when their departures were announced
Inauguration Day was January 20
January 31: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates
February 13: National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
March 30: Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh
April 9: Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland
May 9: FBI Director James Comey
May 30: Communications Director Michael Dubke
July 21: Press Secretary Sean Spicer
July 28: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus
July 31: Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
August 18: Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
August 25: National security aide Sebastian Gorka
September 1: Director of Oval Office Operations Keith Schiller
September 29: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
December 8: Deputy National Security adviser Dina Powell
December 13: Communications director for the White House Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault Newman
February 7: Staff Secretary Rob Porter
February 28: Communications Director Hope Hicks
March 6: Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn
March 12: Special assistant and personal aide to the president John McEntee
March 13: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
March 22: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster
March 28: Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin
April 10: Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert
April 11: Deputy National Security Adviser Nadia Schadlow
April 12: Deputy National Security adviser Ricky Waddell
May 2: White House attorney Ty Cobb
June 5: Communications aide Kelly Sadler
July 5: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt
August 29: White House Counsel Don McGahn
October 9: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
November 7: Attorney General Jeff Sessions
December 9: Chief of Staff John Kelly
December 15: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
December 20: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
March 8: Communications Director Bill Shine
April 8: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
June 13: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders
June 18: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan
June 25: Acting Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner John Sanders
July 12: Labor Secretary Alex Acosta
July 28: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats
August 6: Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman
August 8: Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Sue Gordon
August 29: President’s personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout
September 5: Lead Middle East peace negotiator, Jason Greenblatt
September 10: National Security Advisor, John Bolton