Trump national security spokesman to depart White House

National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton is leaving the administration, a senior White House official confirmed to The Hill on Sunday evening.

It is the latest move in a wide-ranging shakeup of President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE’s national security and foreign policy teams.

The official said that Trump had called Anton on Sunday and thanked him for his service. The president expressed personal regard for Anton and said he would be missed.

ADVERTISEMENT
The news of Anton’s departure was first reported by Politico, which stated that he would join Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center as a writer and lecturer.

Anton’s exit comes soon after national security adviser H.R. McMaster departed. McMaster is being replaced by John Bolton, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonUS steps up its game in Africa, a continent open for business Matt Drudge shares mock ‘Survivor’ cover suggesting more White House officials will leave this summer 'Daily Show' trolls Trump over Pruitt's resignation MORE has also been ousted, with CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMexico's president presses Pompeo on reuniting migrant families The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Trump's administration should avoid pursuing an unreachable end with North Korea MORE nominated by Trump as his replacement. Gina Haspel, currently the deputy director of the CIA, has been nominated to take the top job at the spy agency.

Anton has been a frequent presence on television defending the administration’s foreign policy stances, occasionally clashing with cable news anchors in trenchant terms.

Anton’s backers, and even some of his detractors, respect his intellectual capabilities. A February 2017 story in The Weekly Standard described him as “a fast-talking 47-year-old intellectual who, unlike most of his colleagues, can readily quote Roman histories and Renaissance thinkers.”

He came to prominence within Trump circles by an unusual route. During the 2016 campaign, he wrote blog posts and essays under a pseudonym — Publius Decius Mus, the name of a fourth-century B.C. Roman consul — in which he defended Trump’s policies, primarily from the critiques of other conservatives and Republicans.

Some of his praise was baroque, even by the standards of Trump loyalists.  

"Trump, alone among candidates for high office in this or in the last seven (at least) cycles, has stood up to say: I want to live. I want my party to live. I want my country to live. I want my people to live. I want to end the insanity," he wrote in one essay.

As news broke of his departure from the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders paid tribute.

“Michael is one of the smartest and most talented individuals I’ve ever worked with — not to mention an amazing chef,” she said in a statement. 

But such praise was not universal, especially for those who thought Anton was prone to moving with the tides in the tumultuous Trump administration.

He was initially seen as a fervent advocate of the “America First” stances put forth by Trump during the campaign. He was hired to work with the first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whose tenure was infamously short.

After Flynn’s departure, critics contend Anton aligned himself with the more moderate worldview espoused by McMaster and his allies.

“Anton got the job for one reason — he was the most pro-Trump of anyone associated with the national security area,” said one source close to the White House.

This source insisted, “He completely flipped. He was brought in because of Flynn but he became the biggest cheerleader for the McMaster faction that fought against implementing the president’s policies.”

Whether that is true or not, his departure cleans the slate for Bolton to build his own team. Monday will be Bolton's official first day on the job.

Updated at 8:35 p.m.