By Vera Bergengruen, Matt Berman, BuzzFeed News
National Security Adviser Gen. HR McMaster will leave the Trump administration and be replaced by former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, President Donald Trump announced Thursday night.
I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018
The decision was first reported by the New York Times.
Trump named McMaster as his national security adviser in February 2017, a week after firing his predecessor, Michael Flynn, following reports that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador about sanctions.
Trump’s first choice to replace Flynn, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the offer.
McMaster, a three-star general and a veteran of both Iraq wars, chose to stay on active military duty while serving as the national security adviser.
(President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that national security adviser H.R. McMaster will be replaced by John Bolton. Courtesy of CNN and YouTube. Posted on Mar 22, 2018)
A respected military strategist, he joined several other high-ranking military officers advising Trump during the first year of his administration, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired four-star general who pushed for him to accept the job, and John Kelly, another retired Marine general who first served as secretary of homeland security and then as White House chief of staff.
But after more than a year, McMaster didn’t develop a personal rapport with the president. The relationship between the detail-oriented McMaster and the president, who prefers his information condensed as much as possible, was often strained.
McMaster’s lengthy briefings reportedly chafed Trump, who viewed the gruff military strategist as condescending.
Their relationship became even more tense in February, when McMaster told an international audience that Russian meddling in the 2016 election was indisputable and Trump publicly tweeted his disapproval.
General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
Frustrations appeared to run both ways. McMaster mocked Trump at a private dinner in July, saying he had the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” five sources with knowledge of the conversation told BuzzFeed News last November.
Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said at the time that “actual participants in the dinner” denied that McMaster made those comments.
(President Trump has decided to remove national security adviser H.R. McMaster from his job, part of a potential larger move to change staff. Courtesy of The Washington Post and YouTube. Posted on Mar 15, 2018)
Bolton, though, has long been a Trump favorite. He has been floated for a seemingly endless number of foreign policy or national security jobs since even before Trump won the presidency.
In May 2016, months before Trump was even the official Republican nominee, Bolton said it would be an “honor to be considered for any position” in a potential Trump administration.
Trump himself suggested during the campaign that he would consider Bolton for secretary of state, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt in August 2016 that Bolton is “a good man.”
But a month after Trump’s win, there was already a campaign underway to prevent him from being nominated for any job in the State Department, with Republican senators reportedly skeptical of his fit.
Sen. Rand Paul went as far as to say he would block any Bolton nomination.
“John Bolton doesn’t get it. He still believes in regime change.”
“He’s still a big cheerleader for the Iraq War,” he said on ABC’s This Week in December 2016.
“John Bolton is so far out of it and has such a naive understanding of the world.”
Bolton has been a controversial national security figure for decades.
He is blunt (North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il was a “tyrannical dictator,” the idea that China would respond with force if the US recognized Taiwan — as he suggested doing — “ is a fantasy”) and has held hawkish views.
Bolton advocated for the Iraq war as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in 2002, saying the Bush administration was “confident” that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had “hidden weapons of mass destruction.”
More recently, in 2015, Bolton wrote a New York Times op-ed headlined, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
(Amb. John Bolton gives insight on his meeting with President Trump and his reception of the greatest threat facing the United States today. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Mar 7, 2018)
In February, he wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal laying out the legal case for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.
“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” he wrote.
Bush had to go around Congress to get Bolton as his UN ambassador in August 2005, and even then was only able to install him temporarily in an acting capacity.
Senators from both parties had issues with Bolton’s temper and worldview at the time, and were specifically troubled by how he viewed the body on which he was being nominated to serve.
“There is no United Nations,” Bolton said in a 1994 speech.
“There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.”
Bolton’s official nomination to the post was eventually abandoned and he resigned as UN ambassador at the end of 2006.
Trump, especially during his presidential campaign, has staked out foreign policy positions that directly clash with Bolton’s.
Bolton said he was “disturbed” when Trump suggested in July 2016 that, as president, he might not abide by NATO’s mutual defense agreement if member countries don’t keep financial promises.
He called Trump’s comments, which were eventually walked back, “an open invitation to Vladimir Putin who has already changed borders on the continent of Europe through the use of military force.”
But Bolton has still been a constant presence in Trump’s Washington. He has kept up his political operation, endorsing and backing candidates for 2018’s elections.
And he has frequently met with Trump since Trump’s been president, stoking speculation that it was only a matter of time before he landed an administration job.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Bolton as “a friend of the president” in December and said his stops by the White House were just check-ins.
One thing that’s reportedly kept Bolton out of a job to this point: his notorious, walrusesque mustache.
“Donald was not going to like that mustache,” a source told The Washington Post at the end of 2016.
McMaster has long been disliked by some in Trump’s base.
Some of McMaster’s most high-profile moves included pushing to send an additional 3,000 to 5,000 troops to Afghanistan, and warning staff on the National Security Council that using the term “radical Islamic terrorism” is counterproductive to messaging efforts in the fight against terrorism.
He was also known for being one of the administration’s most hawkish voices on North Korea, and his insistence that deterrence will not work on Kim Jong Un.
(Trump took to Twitter to reassure the world he intends to follow through on his agreement to meet with the North Korean dictator; former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton weighs in on ‘Fox News’. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Mar 9, 2018)