President Donald Trump has ousted national security adviser John Bolton, asserting in a pair of surprise tweets Tuesday that he and the controversial aide "disagreed strongly" on matters of foreign policy.
"I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House," Trump wrote.
"I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore ... I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service," the president continued, adding that he will name a new national security adviser sometime next week.
But Bolton, who was scheduled to appear at a White House briefing later Tuesday afternoon alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, offered a conflicting account on Twitter minutes after the Trump's posts.
"I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, 'Let's talk about it tomorrow,'" he wrote online.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley confirmed that Charles Kupperman, the deputy national security adviser, would replace Bolton on an acting basis, and went on to defend Trump's version events to reporters outside the White House.
"The fact is the president of the United States asked John Bolton last night for his resignation. It was delivered today," he said. "John Bolton's priorities and policies just don't line up with the president's."
Gidley insisted "there is no one issue here," and stressed that Trump and Bolton "just didn't align on many issues."
Bolton's departure follows a series of foreign policy schisms between the hawkish former United Nations envoy and the commander in chief — who has sought to deescalate tensions with Iran and North Korea while Bolton pursued a more confrontational tack toward the U.S. adversaries.
Recent reports have also indicated Bolton had been largely sidelined in White House talks seeking to navigate an end to the war in Afghanistan, which imploded over the weekend after Trump announced he had aborted a planned round of negotiations at Camp David with Taliban leaders and the Afghan president.
NBC News reported that Bolton as well as Vice President Mike Pence were opposed to the idea of such a summit, prompting Trump on Monday to dismiss the story as untrue.
"A lot of Fake News is being reported that I overruled the VP and various advisers on a potential Camp David meeting with the Taliban. This Story is False!" he wrote online, adding that the "Dishonest Media likes to create ... the look of turmoil in the White House, of which there is none."
Reactions on Capitol Hill to Bolton's exit came swiftly from Republican lawmakers, with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) heralding him as "a brilliant man" whose resignation constituted "an extraordinary loss" for the United States.
"I’m very very unhappy to hear that he’s leaving," Romney said, praising Bolton's "contrarian" sensibilities as "an asset, not a liability."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) a top ally to Trump and occasional counselor on foreign policy, complimented Bolton as someone who "sees the world for what it is," but stressed the importance of the "personal relationship" between the president and the national security adviser.
"I appreciate what John Bolton had done for the country for a long period of time, and now the president can pick a national security adviser he has more confidence in," Graham said.
A GOP Hill aide offered a less flattering assessment of Bolton, telling POLITICO: "It’s going to be hard to find a national security adviser who shares Trump’s opinion that we should make lousy deals with bad actors."
Bolton, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for 16 months under former President George W. Bush’s administration, was appointed as Trump’s top national security aide in April 2018 — despite widespread opposition from national Democrats and concern among several high-profile members of the diplomatic community over his perceived proclivity for military intervention and role in the origins of the Iraq War.
Bolton is the third national security adviser of Trump’s presidency. He assumed leadership of the administration’s National Security Council following the March 2018 ouster of H. R. McMaster, the Army lieutenant general who frequently clashed with the president on matters of foreign policy and was branded by detractors as not sufficiently conservative.
Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, became ensnared in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one felony count of lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador.