The press conference was announced this morning at around 8 AM and scheduled for 1:30 PM this afternoon. The attendees were supposed to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and National Security Advisor John Bolton. However, just a few hours before the briefing was set to begin, it was announced that Bolton would no longer be attending and, in fact, was no longer the president’s National Security Advisor.
Did he jump or was he pushed? Well, it depends on who you choose to believe.
If you think that Donald Trump has even a shred of credibility left in his body, you can accept the version that he tweeted out this morning that was the first indication of Bolton’s departure.
….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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2019
Bolton himself told another story altogether. It only took him a dozen minutes to respond with his own version of the circumstances surrounding his exit.
I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow."
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) September 10, 2019
The now-former National Security Advisor quickly marshaled his media strategy texting The New York Times and The Washington Post to reinforce his version of the events in question.
“Offered last night without his asking,” Bolton texted The New York Times. “Slept on it and gave it to him this morning.”
“Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night,” he wrote in a text to The Washington Post. “I will have my say in due course. But I have given you the facts on the resignation. My sole concern is U.S. national security.”
Bolton also made sure to get his side of the story out to where he knew President Trump was sure to see it, texting Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade while he was live on the air.
“John Bolton just texted me just now, he’s watching,” Kilmeade told the segment’s host, Harris Faulkner. “He said, ‘Let’s be clear — I resigned.’ I said, ‘Do you mind if I say that,’ while you were talking and he wrote, ‘Yes.’ John Bolton just said, ‘I resigned.’”
Whatever the true story of Bolton’s departure may be, the hawkish security consigliere’s exit comes as little surprise given the chasm of policy differences separating the president and the bellicose advisor.
On everything from Iran to North Korea to Afghanistan, Bolton has been seen as being much more aggressive in his posture and possessing a greater willingness to exercise America’s military power than Trump has ever been comfortable with. He has also reportedly been unwilling to appear on cable news shows to defend the president’s policies, particularly in regard to Afghanistan, Russia, and Trump’s love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Trump, for his part, regarded Bolton as a warmonger and joked about the countries that his advisor wanted the U.S. to invade. Despite the president’s penchant for setting up antagonistic power centers in his administration to foment the chaotic environment that he likes to operate within, the gulf between the two apparently grew too wide for Bolton to continue, no matter who made the final decision.
Bolton was the third National Security Advisor in the Trump administration in less than three years. His first one only lasted a month before he resigned over his contacts with Russia and his undisclosed lobbying work for Turkey, eventually becoming a semi-cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Kremlin interference in the 2016 election campaign. He is awaiting sentencing for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty.
President Trump promised to name a new National Security Advisor shortly. With a record turnover among his senior staff, Trump will soon be able to brag about another superlative, being the most alienating president to his staff ever.
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Original reporting by Peter Baker at The New York Times and by Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung, Josh Dawsey, and John Wagner at The Washington Post.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.