Former Pentagon official calls Bolton's approach to intel community 'counterproductive'

A former Pentagon official criticized White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Barr back on the hot seat The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE on Wednesday over his approach to the intelligence community and foreign policy experts who make up the National Security Council (NSC).

John Gans Jr., who served as a chief speechwriter to now-former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter during the Obama administration, said the NSC has long functioned as a forum for presidents to discuss security and policy matters with military officials and exchange ideas, but that has changed under Bolton’s leadership.

"The NSC was basically built to help run a pretty formative, deliberative, collaborative process to come up with the best ideas, and that is largely what it has done for the past 30 or 40 years after the Iran-Contra affair," Gans told Hill.TV. "John Bolton has taken a different approach, which is to sort of pull things into a less formal process in a much more smaller, collaborative circle and in a much more secretive process."

"The effort to try and pull things away from people ends up being counterproductive,” he said, adding that the approach creates a degree of "uncertainty" and "risk" to American foreign policy.

Gans's comments come amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Earlier this month, Bolton announced the deployment of a U.S. carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to send a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE, meanwhile, has imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran. But the president has downplayed reports about sending troops to the region.

Trump on Thursday dismissed a New York Times report that said the administration was planning to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacked U.S. interests or revived parts of its nuclear weapons program. But he said that if it came to it, he would send a "hell of a lot more troops than that."

"I think it’s fake news," Trump told reporters. “Now would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that.”

—Tess Bonn