Patterico's Pontifications


Another One Bites The Dust: John Bolton Out

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:54 am

[guest post by Dana]

President Trump has fired his national security adviser, claiming that he asked for John Bolton’s resignation last night, and received it this morning:

Minutes ago, Bolton said, whoah, that’s not quite how it happened:

Anyway, it was inevitable. Eventually, they all leave, whether of their initiative or with a little help…

Clearly, the writing has been on the wall:

Back in May, with tensions rising between the U.S. and Iran, Trump’s Fox buddy Tucker Carlson began taking hard shots at him on the air for his hawkishness. It got worse in June when Trump canceled a bombing strike on Iran at the last minute against the advice of Bolton, among others; Carlson took to telling Fox viewers that Bolton was a “bureaucratic tapeworm” and Trump reportedly lamented to a confidant about his own natsec advisors, “These people want to push us into a war, and it’s so disgusting.” A few weeks later, Bolton was conspicuously absent from Trump’s big photo op with Kim Jong Un at the DMZ, having been tasked with a visit to Mongolia at the time instead. (Ironically, Carlson did accompany Trump, albeit as part of Fox’s team.)

Things seemed to deteriorate from there. The most hardcore Republican Bolton critic in Congress, Rand Paul, was deputized by Trump in July to try to broker negotiations with Iran. (Paul is already celebrating Bolton’s termination on Twitter today.)

Bolton was recently sidelined during negotiations concerning Afghanistan, and specifically fear that he might derail plans to negotiate with the Taliban:

As the president’s top aides prepared for a high-stakes meeting on the future of Afghanistan earlier this month, one senior official was not on the original invite list: national security adviser John Bolton.

The attendance of the top security aide would normally be critical, but the omission was no mistake, senior U.S. officials said. Bolton, who has long advocated an expansive military presence around the world, has become a staunch internal foe of an emerging peace deal aimed at ending America’s longest war, the officials said.

His opposition to the diplomatic effort in Afghanistan has irritated President Trump, these officials said, and led aides to leave the National Security Council out of sensitive discussions about the agreement.

Bolton’s influence on the President has diminished over the past few months:

The sidelining of Bolton has raised questions about his influence in an administration that is seeking a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as an ambitious nuclear deal with North Korea and potential engagement with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Bolton, U.S. officials said, stands in opposition to those efforts, but he does so increasingly from the periphery.

“It’s messed up on so many levels that the national security adviser isn’t involved, but trust is a real issue,” said a senior U.S. official, one of a half-dozen who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

No word on who will be Bolton’s replacement.

P.S. Bolton’s determined to have the last word on the matter:

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


More on the Spy Who Returned from Russia with Love

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:46 am

The Washington Post has more on that (as a friend puts it) spy who came out of the cold:

In 2017, the United States extracted from Russia an important CIA source who had provided information about the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to current and former officials.

The operation, known as an exfiltration, followed mounting concerns among U.S. officials that the individual could be discovered by the Russian government.

The exfiltration took place sometime after an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, when President Trump revealed highly classified counterterrorism information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, said the current and former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation.

That disclosure alarmed U.S. national security officials, but it was not the reason for the decision to remove the CIA asset, who had provided information to the United States for more than a decade, according to the current and former officials.

The exfiltration was first reported by CNN. The CIA declined to comment.

Similar is a New York Times story published yesterday:

The decision to extract the informant was driven “in part” because of concerns that Mr. Trump and his administration had mishandled delicate intelligence, CNN reported. But former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.

(I have bolded the words “public” and “current” to emphasize that there is some wiggle room there. More on that below.)

The allegation that Trump routinely mishandles classified information in a manner that alarms intelligence officials is so solid that no sane person still disputes it. The allegation that the exfiltration of this particular Russian spy was done in significant measure due to Trump’s mishandling of classified information, as alleged by CNN yesterday, remains based on a single source who no longer works in the government, and is now disputed by multiple anonymous sources.

Now: there is reason to question everything here. The hurricane/Alabama fiasco shows that government will lie for Trump — and indeed government officials are sometimes threatened with termination should they fail to lie for Trump. And in this case, if there is lying going on right now, it might also be in service of making the story go away so that the spy will not be identified. (Too late! I’m not going to link the story, but the Russians know who he is.)

What all this means is that we may never know to what extent, if any, Trump’s carelessness with classified information was part of the decisionmaking process here. Many officials are disputing that it was, but as I just noted, they have substantial potential motives to lie.

Also: how could it not go into the mix? “We are alarmed by the President’s routine mishandling of classified information, especially with regard to Russia, but it played no part in our concern over the safety of a sensitive Russian asset” sounds like a perfectly credible statement that I totally believe. If that statement (which, granted, is my argumentative paraphrase of the officials’ position) is really true, it does not speak well of the judgment of intelligence officials. I think it’s a lie.

None of this means that we should not be concerned about Trump’s careless handling of classified information. We should be, and all sane people are. (Trump superfans are not. But I stopped caring what Trump superfans think long ago.)

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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