GOP senators say Trump deserves compatible national security adviser after Bolton firing

Republican senators walked a tightrope Tuesday after the ouster of national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump envoy says US ready to talk to North Korea but rebukes Pyongyang counterpart Why Trump can't make up his mind on China The benefits of American disinterest in world affairs MORE, both praising him for his service and agreeing with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE that he deserves a more compatible adviser.

One notable exception was Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats hope for tidal moment in Georgia with two Senate seats in play Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (R-Utah), who said he was “very, very unhappy” Bolton was leaving.


“His view was not always the same as everybody else in the room. That’s why you wanted him there. The fact that he was a contrarian from time to time is an asset, not a liability,” Romney told reporters after the president tweeted that Bolton had been fired.

“It is a huge loss for the administration, in my opinion, and for the nation,” Romney added.

On the other end of the spectrum, isolationist Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle MORE (R-Ky.) hailed Bolton’s departure, saying the “threat of war worldwide goes down exponentially with John Bolton out of the White House.”

“I think his advocacy for regime change around the world is a naive world view and I think the world will be a much better place with new advisers to the president and hopefully somebody who’s actually listening to what the president says over and over again: that he wants to bring America’s longest war to a close,” Paul said.

Trump tweeted early Tuesday afternoon that he asked for Bolton’s resignation, citing disagreements with Bolton’s policy advice.

"I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration," Trump tweeted

Bolton later tweeted that he offered his resignation Monday night.

“I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let's talk about it tomorrow,’” Bolton said.

Bolton’s ouster caps an 18-month tenure in which Trump increasingly broke with his adviser and Bolton’s influence in the administration steadily waned.

Most recently, Bolton was reportedly fiercely opposed to Trump’s scrapped plan to meet with the Taliban at Camp David for peace talks to end the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate MORE (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, suggested on Tuesday the Taliban meeting was the breaking point between Trump and Bolton.

Asked if he was given advance warning about Bolton, Graham told reporters that he “knew there was some concerns about the whole Taliban meeting, but I didn’t know for sure.”

Graham said that while Bolton “served the country well,” Trump “deserves as national security adviser he has confidence in.”

“It’s time for him to move on because the president wants somebody else,” Graham said.

Paul similarly speculated that differences over Afghanistan contributed to Bolton’s downfall, but stressed that he didn’t have “inside information.”

“The president has a great desire to bring America’s longest war to an end. I don’t think that’s been the position of Mr. Bolton, and I think that maybe that brought things to a head,” Paul said.

Democrats, who disagreed with Bolton in most areas, blasted the announcement of his departure as the latest sign of instability in Trump’s foreign policy.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (D-N.Y.) called Bolton’s ouster “just the latest example of [Trump's] government-by-chaos approach and his rudderless national security policy.”

“When Ambassador Bolton’s extreme views aren’t enough for you, the United States is headed for even more chaotic times,” Schumer said.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyConnecticut senators call for Subway to ban open carry of firearms Democrats optimistic about chances of winning Senate Gridlock mires chances of police reform deal MORE (D-Conn.) said he was “legitimately shaken” by the news.

“I’m legitimately shaken by the grave instability of American foreign policy today,” Murphy tweeted. ”I’m no Bolton fan, but the world is coming apart, and the revolving door of U.S. leadership is disappearing America from the world just at the moment where a stable American hand is most needed.”

And Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Thomas Kean wins GOP primary to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski Trump administration moves to formally withdraw US from WHO MORE (D-N.J.), stressing his disagreements with Bolton’s viewpoints, said his ouster is indicative of Trump surrounding himself with “yes men.”

“He doesn’t want anyone who presents a countervailing view for his consideration,” Menendez said. “And when all you get is yes men around you, then the consequences of that, not only are you in a bubble, but since the president is often wrong, particularly on foreign policy, well, then the consequences of that is somebody’s going to embolden him instead of challenge him as to what the national security of the United States is all about.”

But Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischSenators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque Progressive group backs Democratic challenger to Sen. Risch Republicans start bracing for shutdown fight in run-up to election MORE (Idaho) said he is not worried about instability, saying Trump needs to have a close relationship with his national security adviser.

“That relationship between the president and the national security adviser has got to be a relationship that is very solid and that the president has absolutely 100 percent confidence in,” Risch said.

Most GOP senators took a similar tact as Risch.

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Wis.) said “it’s probably a good thing” Bolton is leaving, even as he expressed some disappointment.

“Mr. Bolton and the president weren’t seeing eye to eye,” Johnson said. “People aren’t going to agree on everything, but I think when it reaches that point it’s probably a good thing they parted company.”

“I have a lot of respect for John Bolton. I hate to see him leave,” he added.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad GOP Miami mayor does not commit to voting for Trump MORE (R-Fla.) said he’s a “big fan” of Bolton’s, but that Trump “has the right to have who he wants around him.” 

“In my view he did a good job, but ultimately that’s the president’s decision to make,” Rubio said. “It’s my personal view that he did a good job, but he didn’t work for me. He worked for the president, so ultimately the president has a right to people working for him that he’s comfortable with.”

Jordain Carney contributed