Trump picks hardliner Bolton to replace
McMaster as national security adviser
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[March 23, 2018]
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Donald Trump shook up his foreign policy team again on Thursday,
replacing H.R. McMaster as national security adviser with John Bolton, a
hawk who has advocated using military force against North Korea and
The move, announced in a tweet and a White House statement, came little
more than a week after Trump fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state
and nominated Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo to
The shake-up shows Trump, in office for 14 months, surrounding himself
with advisers more likely to agree with his views and taking his foreign
policy in a more hawkish direction.
What it means for a prospective summit meeting between Trump and North
Korean leader Kim Jong Un is unclear. The meeting is supposed to happen
by the end of May, but an exact time and place have yet to be settled
Bolton's appointment could doom the already endangered Iran nuclear
deal. It could also lead to friction with Trump on how tough to be on
Russia, with the president still holding out hope for improved ties with
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The news of Bolton's appointment followed a meeting he had with Trump in
the Oval Office. Even Bolton was caught by surprise. “I didn’t really
expect an announcement this afternoon, but it’s obviously a great
honor," he told Fox News after the announcement. "I'm still getting used
Bolton, 69, is a Fox News analyst who contemplated a run for the
Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He is a familiar figure in
Washington, with a walrus-like moustache and hard-charging views on many
Some members of Congress immediately questioned his selection for the
critical position in the White House.
“This is not a wise choice. Mr. Bolton does not have the temperament or
judgment to be an effective national security adviser," Democratic
Senator Jack Reed said in a statement.
Bolton tweeted on Jan. 11 that time was running out on stopping North
Korea's nuclear weapons program. He said: "We’ve got to look at the very
unattractive choice of using military force to deny them that
At a time when Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from
the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, unless Europe agrees to change it, Bolton
has tweeted that the deal "needs to be abrogated."
He has also called for "effective countermeasures to the cyber war that
Russia is engaging."
Elliott Abrams, a senior foreign policy aide to former Republican
President George W. Bush, praised Trump’s choice, saying Bolton “proved
when we were both in the Bush administration that he is an excellent and
Whether Bolton, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for Bush,
will be able to swallow his own views has been debated by foreign policy
experts since he appeared on Trump's radar. His hiring does not require
U.S. Senate confirmation.
Bolton said in the Fox News interview that his past statements on
various issues were behind him and he would be an honest broker ensuring
the president sees all the options available to him.
"The important thing is what the president says and the advice I give
him," he said.
Still, analysts said Bolton's views would be influential.
[to top of second column]
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton (L) speaks
in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S. February 24, 2017, and White House
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster joins the daily briefing in
Washington, U.S. July 31, 2017, in this combination photograph.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts, Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
“Bolton has long been an advocate for pre-emptive military action
against North Korea, and his appointment as National Security
Adviser is a strong signal that President Trump remains open to
these options," said Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of
defense for East Asia under former President Barack Obama.
"We should also expect an even more confrontational approach to
China - a trade war may just be the beginning of a broader
geopolitical competition,” he said.
Bonnie Glaser, Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies think tank in Washington, said: “Bolton has
long supported regime change in North Korea and closer ties with
Taiwan. Fasten your seat belts.”
As the State Department's top arms control official under Bush,
Bolton was a leading advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq - which
was later found to have been based on bogus and exaggerated
intelligence about President Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass
destruction and ties to terrorism.
McMaster, hired early in Trump's presidency to replace
scandal-tarred Michael Flynn as national security adviser, had
widely been expected to leave soon. Trump found McMaster's style
grating. The two had frequently clashed in meetings and Trump had
been looking for a replacement, advisers said.
The White House said Trump and McMaster had "mutually agreed" that
he would leave. "I am very thankful for the service of General H.R.
McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my
friend," Trump's tweet said.
"The two have been discussing this for some time. The timeline was
expedited as they both felt it was important to have the new team in
place, instead of constant speculation. This was not related to any
one moment or incident, rather it was the result of ongoing
conversations between the two," a senior White House official said.
The announcement came a day after Trump was angered by a leak of
information from his presidential briefing papers that said he was
advised specifically not to congratulate Putin on his disputed
election victory. Trump told reporters he had congratulated Putin.
McMaster, 55, is to stay on until mid-April. He said in a statement
he was also requesting retirement from the U.S. Army, in which he
holds the rank of three-star general.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had been hoping to entice
McMaster into another military assignment in order to qualify as a
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by by Warren
Strobel, Yara Bayoumy and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Kevin
Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)
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