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Trump rattles White House with Bolton shake-up

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems add five candidates to ‘Red to Blue’ program White House notifies Russia that no new sanctions are coming: report Senators push HHS to negotiate lower prices on opioid overdose reversal drug MORE is moving aggressively to reshape his team, and the unexpected moves are causing turmoil within his embattled staff.
 
The president’s supporters are cheering his decision to replace national security adviser H.R. McMaster with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, whose views are more in line with those of the president. 

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That sudden move comes after Trump replaced his secretary of State and national economic adviser in recent weeks — long-anticipated changes that nonetheless happened abruptly and sent shockwaves through Washington.

The staff shake-up reveals the president’s frustration with members of his old team who encouraged him to back away from or delay key policy decisions, which he frequently makes based on gut instinct.
 
Bolton, the hawkish former Bush administration official, has pledged to implement Trump’s agenda, even on matters in which they might disagree.

The president’s allies had grown frustrated with McMaster, believing he slow-walked the president’s agenda or sought to implement his own.

“Bolton is coming in to prosecute the president’s agenda, which sets him apart from McMaster who tried to advance his own policies and beliefs,” said a former White House official. “If Bolton sticks to that plan, he will be a success. The president wants people in the administration who, when he makes a decision, will follow through on it.”

Bolton will be Trump’s third national security adviser in just 14 months, adding to a level of turnover the White House not seen in decades.

The reshuffle is far from over. 
 
The National Security Council is now bracing for a shake-up under Bolton’s leadership. There is hope among Trump's allies that Bolton will put an end to the damaging leaks from the National Security Council and rid the council of Obama-era holdovers — or anyone viewed as insufficiently loyal to the president.

Sources close to the council say spokesman Michael Anton and deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow could be among those on the way out. 

One of Bolton’s top advisers, Richard Grenell, will not be joining Bolton in the White House. Trump has tapped Grenell to be ambassador to Germany, although Grenell is still waiting on his Senate confirmation.

But Bolton has other advisers who could be in line for key posts, including Sarah Tinsley, a longtime ally who is currently at Bolton’s super PAC, and Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst.

“Obviously, you have some folks on the [National Security Council] who are completely against this,” said one administration official. “They are bracing for a shake-up when he comes because we know he’ll want to bring in his own people. But he’s also bringing a much different worldview than what they’ve had there. It could be a tenuous situation early on.”

Bolton is not in lockstep with Trump on all national security matters. He has a strong personality and could clash with Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisDeVos pushes for school vouchers for military families despite opposition: report The Hill's Morning Report: Haley clashes with White House Mattis wanted approval from Congress before Syria strikes but was overruled: report MORE and chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, both of whom eventually soured on McMaster.

Bolton is said not to be the favored pick of Kelly or Mattis. 
 
But his choice was cheered by Trump allies, who predicted he would find more success than McMaster, who also had ideological differences with Trump. 

“It is a good move,” said Walid Phares, who was one of Trump’s national security advisers during the campaign.

“The White House and Congress both need him there at this particular junction,” Phares said.

In addition to serving as George W. Bush’s U.N. ambassador, Bolton also held key roles in the George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations. 

His critics have cast him as a "warmonger" whose impulse is always for military intervention.

Bolton has been vocal about ripping up the Obama administration’s deal with Iran — a position that the president shares. But he has also advocated for a military strike on North Korea at a time when the administration is pushing sanctions and potential talks between the countries.
 
Bolton’s allies say his reputation as a “warmonger” is overblown and that, at the end of the day, he and Trump both prescribe to Reagan’s “peace through strength” maxim.

“John understands that people view him as a warmonger but he’s really not,” said one person close to him. “He’s never worked in military planning or the Pentagon. He’s a diplomat who understands there’s no better reinforcement for American diplomacy than having the credible threat of military action behind you, and he uses that to gain a diplomatic edge. You need hard-edged diplomats like that to avoid wars. You get into wars with weak diplomacy.”

Trump’s abrupt personnel changes are still reverberating throughout the White House.

Trump’s move to replace McMaster with Bolton caught Kelly and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders by surprise. Less than a week ago, Sanders insisted there were no changes coming.
 
The Bolton episode highlighted Trump’s volatile decisionmaking process, which has frustrated some members of his team. 


Rumors of McMaster’s exit had swirled for months, and Kelly worked behind the scenes to craft a transition plan that would allow McMaster to land on his feet. 



After Trump axed Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonMenendez rips characterization of Pompeo as 'nation's top diplomat' Feinstein comes out against Pompeo for secretary of State Dem lawmaker rips Trump's taxpayer spending on Tax Day MORE last week, speculation mounted that McMaster would be the next to go. But White House officials, including Sanders, publicly batted down the speculation after huddling with the president. 



Bolton himself seemed to be taken by surprise by the offer, which followed a Thursday afternoon meeting in the West Wing.

“Obviously it caught us off guard,” said an administration official.

But Trump’s allies say White House staff understand Trump’s volatile nature and will get over it. In the long run, they believe Bolton gives the administration a well-regarded establishment figure with broad support in the conservative foreign policy sphere.

“Bolton is a hard-nosed guy. He is not a wallflower,” the official said. “He also knows how to operate the levers of power. He is not a rookie at this, so he will be a force to be reckoned with.”