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Trump fires John Bolton amid concerns over leaks and policy disagreements, sources say

Hunter Walker and Brittany Shepherd
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WASHINGTON — President Trump announced in a tweet on Tuesday that he had asked his national security adviser, John Bolton, to resign. Sources say the departure was due to disagreements and suspicions that Bolton was involved in leaks.

The shocking announcement came less than two hours before Bolton was set to participate in a press briefing at the White House with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. That briefing was announced on Tuesday morning.

“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. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week,” Trump wrote.

Bolton issued a tweet of his own about the firing shortly after Trump’s announcement.

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

Bolton could not be immediately reached for comment.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Yahoo News that philosophical differences were behind Trump’s decision.

National security adviser John Bolton outside the West Wing of the White House in April. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
National security adviser John Bolton outside the White House in April. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

“Simply put, many of Bolton’s policy priorities did not align with POTUS,” Grisham said, using an abbreviation for Trump’s title.

A source familiar with the situation described Bolton’s departure as the result of a “personality clash” between him and the president. The source said this included disagreements over strategy for Afghanistan and Iran.

A second source echoed the notion that Bolton clashed with the president, particularly regarding Iran and Afghanistan. They said Trump and others had come to view Bolton as “arrogant” and “smug.” The source further claimed that Pompeo had also become dissatisfied with Bolton and encouraged the president to remove him.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolton, who served as U.N. ambassador in the administration of President George W. Bush, is known for advocating hawkish approaches to foreign policy. He became Trump’s third national security adviser in 2018 after the departure of H.R. McMaster, a former Army lieutenant general who held the position after the brief tenure of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

A third source close to the president said Bolton had “too many strikes” against him. They said Bolton drew the president’s ire in three areas: “Venezuela, Iran and leaks.” Bolton pushed for more aggressive responses to the situations in Venezuela and Iran than Trump was comfortable with, according to the source. They also said the White House grew suspicious because it “always leaks” when Bolton disagreed with Trump on something.

President Donald Trump listens as his national security adviser John Bolton speaks during a presidential memorandum signing in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington in February. (Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters)
President Trump listens as Bolton speaks during a presidential memorandum signing in the Oval Office in February. (Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters)

Specifically, the source cited the recent aborted Taliban talks as an example of a time when Trump believed Bolton was responsible for leaks to the press.

On Saturday, Trump, who has long called for ending the war in Afghanistan, announced that he had called off plans to “secretly” meet with Taliban leaders at Camp David this week following an attack that left a U.S. soldier and 11 other people dead in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Camp David meeting would have followed nearly a year of negotiations between the U.S. government and the Taliban and were set to include a deal for American troops to withdraw from that country. Subsequent press reports described Bolton as an opponent of the deal. The source close to the president said this was seen as part of a pattern in which Bolton’s private policy disagreements ended up in the news.

“Not smart and insubordination,” the source close to the president said.

Additional reporting by Jenna McLaughlin


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