Five candidates on list to replace ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ John Bolton, Trump says

President mocks former national security adviser day after he was fired or quit, depending on the source

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he departs the Capitol after the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon on March 14. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he departs the Capitol after the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon on March 14. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 11, 2019 at 2:00pm

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is looking closely at five candidates to replace hawkish John Bolton — whom he mocked — a day after he abruptly fired Bolton from his role as national security adviser.

“We have a lot of good people who want that position. … We’ll have five people who want it very much,” Trump told reporters after an unrelated event at the White House. “We’ll be announcing somebody next week.”

Trump has often promised major policy and personnel announcements in a week or two, but frequently fails to meet his own deadlines.

He contended Bolton was not “getting along” with key members of his team, and noted his former adviser’s early-2000s advocacy of the Iraq conflict. Trump mocked Bolton, calling him “Mr. Tough Guy,” while saying internally “some of the things we’re doing are too tough.”

Trump soon will become the first president to have four national security advisers during a first term since Dwight D. Eisenhower made Robert Cutler the first to hold the post as the head of the National Security Council, which was created after World War II.

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Michael Flynn, a flame-throwing conservative retired Army three-star general, was fired 25 days into Trump’s presidency and later indicted by federal officials. H.R. McMaster, then an active-duty Army three-star general, never meshed with Trump and was replaced by Bolton.

Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who once mused about enjoying going after all the “low-hanging fruit” at the global organization, had impressed Trump with his tough talk during his many appearances on Fox News.

But Bolton was a chief proponent of George W. Bush’s Iraq war, a conflict candidate Trump called a “stupid” that accomplished few — if any — strategic goals and cost the United States too much blood and treasure. It was one of many policy differences that made analysts question how the two would work together.

In the end, they couldn’t. Trump fired Bolton in a late Monday morning tweet and the two clashed throughout the afternoon about whether Bolton quit or was fired.

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Bolton is considered a tough Washington inside player who is not reluctant to throw a few elbows. That means he might speak publicly about life inside Trump’s often-chaotic West Wing.

“I hope we left on good stead, but maybe we haven’t,” the president said. “John wasn’t in line with what we were doing.”

Meantime, as lawmakers from both parties — joined by mayors and state officials — struggle to understand just what Trump might sign into law to combat mass shootings, he did little to clarify his demands.

He noted speaking this week with GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — co-authors of a background checks bill — and Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, site of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown. But he was no more clear about what he wants lawmakers to send him.

“We are working very, very hard on this. …  We’re looking at background checks. We’re looking at putting everything together in a meaningful way,” Trump said, noting he wants to “preserve our Second Amendment rights.”

“We’re having great talks,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

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