US national security adviser John Bolton. Picture: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US national security adviser John Bolton. Picture: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Washington  — President Donald Trump ousted national security adviser John Bolton because he “disagreed strongly” with many of his positions, ending a tumultuous tenure marked by several setbacks in US foreign policy.

“I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning,” Trump tweeted. “I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”

Bolton, who is known for decades of hawkish positions on US foreign policy from North Korea to Iran, had been scheduled to take part in a press briefing on Tuesday on terrorism.

Minutes after Trump’s announcement, Bolton responded on Twitter: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow’.”

The announcement comes days after Trump abandoned a plan to bring Taliban leaders to Camp David for peace talks.

Trump’s decision to pull out of peace negotiations capped a tough week. On Friday, the president’s adviser on North Korea said negotiations have been stalled for months. On Thursday, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt announced his intention to depart; the vaunted Israeli-Palestinian peace plan he has  been working on has yet to be unveiled. The US-China trade war drags on.

Crude oil futures reversed an earlier gain in New York, falling 0.2% to $57.71 a barrel by midday. 

Bolton, 70, joined the White House in April 2018, bringing an interventionist view into Trump’s inner circle.

From the outset, Bolton seemed like an odd fit under a president who champions an “America First” agenda. At times, he pursued his longstanding foreign policy priorities, creating tension with top administration officials and the president himself.

Bolton came to the post best known for his ardent support of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq while serving in the George   Bush administration. Later he was a Fox News contributor and senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Since joining Trump’s White House, Bolton pursued an agenda that included trying to break Iran financially, shield Americans from the reach of the International Criminal Court and toughen the US posture towards Russia. Bolton was a leading voice promoting US support for the overthrow of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, an effort that has not been successful.

Weeks before joining the administration, Bolton wrote a Wall Street Journal opinion article arguing for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, only for Trump to instead pursue diplomacy with Kim Jong-un. Bolton said that his personal views were “now behind me” and that “the important thing is what the president says and what advice I give him”.

Yet, when Trump made a June visit to the Demilitarised Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula to meet with Kim, Bolton was conspicuously absent — meeting with officials in Mongolia instead.

Bolton has also taken a hard line with immigration policy, and clashed with former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly over the administration’s approach to border crossings.

Last year, Kelly and Bolton engaged in a heated argument outside the Oval Office over immigration and the performance of then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Bolton was among the officials who urged Trump to fire Nielsen.

Bolton, whom the president sometimes calls “the Mustache” because of his trademark facial hair, has also taken on secretary of state Michael Pompeo and treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin over sanctions against Iran. Bolton has argued that waivers for the sanctions were too generous towards Iran.

Bolton suffered the loss of his top deputy, Mira Ricardel, in November after first lady Melania Trump called for her firing. Melania Trump issued an unusual public statement demanding Ricardel leave the White House after clashes between Bolton’s deputy and the first lady’s staff over her trip to Africa in 2018.

Bloomberg