Barely a week since accepting his new job, US President Donald Trump’s newly-appointed National Security Adviser, John Bolton, is considering far more changes to the national security team at the White House than he has already made.
Since taking office last Monday, Bolton has fired or forced to retire four senior aides on the National Security Council (NSC) and officials aware of the situation have revealed that more changes will come as soon as the veteran Republican forms his own team.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, current and former administration officials told the Hill that although Bolton had already made most of the big changes that he wanted, there were many mid-level aides who expected to get the axe from him.
This is the second major reshuffle of the NSC in the past 15 months, after Bolton’s predecessor, General H. R. McMaster, turned upside down the council’s lineup.
McMaster had just completed his reshuffle when Trump restarted the game of musical chairs at the NSC by firing him last month. The old general had taken over from Michael Flynn, the disgraced Trump aide who admitted to misleading prosecutors by hiding his links to Russia.
NSC staff say the moves show that Trump has emboldened Bolton to reshape the NSC at his own will.
They said his management style of Bolton, described by a State Department official as a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy,” had kept everyone on the edge over the past days.
Some officials have expressed concern that he might fill the NSC with hard-liners like himself and take away the council’s status as an honest broker in the inter-agency process that leads to national security decisions.
National security experts have also warned that Bolton’s changes increase the chances of infighting at the NSC.
The hawkish Republican has already found himself at odds with Defense Secretary James Mattis, who reportedly balked at Bolton’s appointment. Maybe that’s why the two quickly staged a televised meeting at the Pentagon last week.
Bolton has also pointed out differences of opinion he has with Trump on a range of issues, from the Iraq War to Syria and to North Korea. However, he said he would restrain his personal beliefs in order to carry out the president’s agenda.
“The national security adviser like all of the president's top advisers serve at his pleasure,” Bolton said the day of his hiring. “And he may be a different kind of president than others, but I think that's what the people voted for, and that's the role I've been asked to take on.”