Donald Trump 'fires' national security adviser John Bolton over policy disagreements

The 70-year-old reportedly opposed a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan
The 70-year-old reportedly opposed a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan Credit: AP /Manuel Balce Ceneta

Donald Trump announced by tweet that he fired his national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday, citing “strong” disagreements with his proposals. 

The pair had recently clashed over Afghanistan policy, with Mr Bolton opposing a plan to invite the Taliban to Camp David for peace talks that was later scraped

Mr Bolton also reportedly objected to Mr Trump meeting Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, and was sceptical that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons.

Mr Trump broke the news on Twitter, writing: “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.”

John Bolton at the White House earlier on Tuesday Credit:  Tom Brenner/Bloomberg

However Mr Bolton swiftly offered a different version of events, tweeting: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, 'Let's talk about it tomorrow'."

The departure means Mr Trump is now looking for his fourth White House national security advisor in less than three years. The president said a permanent replacement would be announced next week. 

Mr Bolton, 70, took the job back in April 2018 with a reputation as a renowned foreign policy hawk, having served as George W Bush’s UN ambassador. 

Over recent months there had been widespread speculation that his opposition to many of Mr Trump’s foreign policy instincts, and willingness to voice them, had begun to frustrate the president. 

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state who is close to Mr Trump and was also said to have frequently clashed with Mr Bolton, did little to hide the differences on Tuesday. 

“The president is entitled to the staff that he wants, at any moment,” Mr Pompeo said at a briefing in the White House which Mr Bolton was meant also to have been attending. 

“He should have people that he trusts and values and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy.”

Asked if he had clashed with Mr Bolton, Mr Pompeo said: “There were many times Ambassador Bolton and I disagreed. That’s to be sure.” 

Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, also used a similar line to explain the departure, saying that Mr Bolton’s “priorities and policies just don’t line up with the president”. 

One area where Mr Bolton and Mr Trump disagreed, and which was on Tuesday being cited as a tipping point in their relationship, was over Afghanistan policy. 

Mr Bolton was reportedly opposed to Mr Trump’s plan to bring Taliban leaders and the Afghan president to Camp David for peace talks on Sunday. 

The president revealed the secret plans on Saturday while also announcing that the meeting had been cancelled after a US soldier was killed in Afghanistan.

Critics questioned why Mr Trump would have hosted Taliban leaders on US soil just three days before the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 Americans in 2001.

Mr Bolton served under Mr Bush, who was US president when the atrocity took place. On Tuesday morning Mr Bolton tweeted about the importance of remembering the “horrific” attack. 

A clash over whether to sign a peace deal with the Taliban, and the need to deliver Mr Trump’s promise to bring US troops back from Afghanistan, was not the only area of disagreement. 

Mr Bolton was sceptical of the chances of North Korea agreeing to denuclearise, despite Mr Trump’s public optimism and warm words for Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader. 

He said recent North Korean missile tests violated UN resolutions, which the president has contradicted, and did not join Mr Trump for his meeting with Kim in the Korean Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] in June. 

Iran was another area of differing views. Mr Bolton was said to have supported an air strike after Tehran shot down a US drone over the summer. Mr Trump backed out of the military intervention at the last minute. 

Mr Pompeo said on Tuesday that Mr Trump may meet Mr Rouhani at the UN general assembly in New York later this month - a sign of a possible softening in America's hardline approach. 

Mr Trump offered a glimpse into his differing opinions with Mr Bolton back in May, joking that he “tempers” his adviser and noting other aides were “a little more dovish”. 

John Bolton, left, was said to have clashed on policy with Mike Pompeo, centre, the US Secretary of State, as well as Donald Trump, right Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Mr Bolton’s departure means that a fully committed Brexiteer is leaving Mr Trump’s inner circle, which could influence the president’s thinking on the issue.

Mr Bolton met Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, on a recent trip to Britain during which he said America would “enthusiastically” support a no deal Brexit.

Mr Bolton doubled down on his insistence that he resigned, according to a text message he sent a reporter at The Washington Post. 

It read: “Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night. I will have my say in due course. But I have given you the facts on the resignation. My sole concern is US national security.”

Charlie Kupperman, Mr Bolton’s deputy, will fill the national security adviser role on a temporary basis. 

US media speculated that Brian Hook and Stephen Biegun, the top State Department advisers on Iran and North Korea respectively, could be considered as the permanent replacement.