WASHINGTON — President Trump accepted the resignation of national security adviser H.R. McMaster on Thursday — and then named John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations and conservative foreign policy commentator, to succeed him.
McMaster’s ouster continues a period of particular turmoil in Trump’s national security team, following the ouster last week of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. That move, Trump said, was in preparation for upcoming top-level nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
But whereas Tillerson was fired by tweet, McMaster’s departure appears to be more amicable. Trump and McMaster both released written statements thanking each other, with the president describing McMaster as an architect of his “America First” foreign policy.
“He has won many battles and his bravery and toughness are legendary,” Trump said.
A 55-year-old three-star Army general, McMaster will retire from the military after 34 years. Bolton will take over April 9, Trump said.
The new national security adviser is a 69-year-old lawyer who has been a controversial figure in the foreign policy establishment. He served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, but was appointed during a congressional recess and was never confirmed by the Senate.
The national security adviser post does not require Senate confirmation.
He previously served in State and Justice Department posts under President Reagan and both Bushes.
Bolton’s arrival may signal an even more hawkish Trump line on Iran and North Korea. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month, he outlined a legal case for a first strike against North Korea, calling the regime an “imminent threat.” He’s made a similar argument about Iran, and as undersecretary of State for arms control in the run-up to the Iraq War, he argued for a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq to prevent the regime from using weapons of mass destruction — weapons that were never found in large quantities.
A recent fixture on Fox News, he’s also been a skeptic of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — raising the possibility that it was a “false flag” operation. (The intelligence community has concluded that Russia was responsible for the hacking of emails belonging to the Democratic party and Clinton campaign officials.)
In an interview Thursday on Fox News, Bolton declined to address any of his past statements. “They’re all out there on the public record. I’ve never been shy about what my views are,” he said. “The important thing is what the president says and what advice I give him.”
In recent years, Bolton has run his own political operation, including a super PAC that bears his name, to support Republican candidates. The political action committee has relied on research from Cambridge Analytica, a voter profiling firm at the center of a controversy over what Facebook says was unauthorized of the social network’s data.
In the 2016 election alone, Bolton’s super PAC paid more than $811,000 to Cambridge Analytica for “survey research,” according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Bolton will be Trump’s third national security adviser: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was fired after less than a month for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Later last year he was indicted on related charges.