WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump is replacing his national security adviser, the latest in a number of recent high-level staff changes coming 14 months into his term.
In a tweet Thursday evening, Trump announced that Army Lt. General H.R. McMaster will be succeeded by John Bolton, who is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and currently an analyst on the conservative Fox News Channel.
A White House official said Trump and McMaster "mutually agreed" that the career military officer would resign his post and retire.
"The two have been discussing this for some time," according to the official. "The timeline was expedited as they both felt it was important to have the new team in place, instead of constant speculation. This was not related to any one moment or incident, rather it was the result of ongoing conversations between the two."
McMaster said in a statement, "After 34 years of service to our nation, I am requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer, after which I will leave public service."
?Released in a tweet
Trump, in his statement released at the time of his tweet, said the career military officer had helped "develop our America First National Security Strategy, revitalize our alliances in the Middle East, smash ISIS, bring North Korea to the table, and strengthen our nation's prosperity. This work and those achievements will ensure that America builds on its economic and military advantages."
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who is a retired army general, said McMaster had developed options for the president and ensured that those options were presented "fully and fairly."
Bolton, who also was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001-2005, is regarded as a hardliner and interventionist on matters of foreign policy and defense.
He has recently advocated a first strike on North Korea and pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran.
In an interview on Fox News shortly after the announcement, Bolton said a national security adviser should make sure "the president has the full range of options presented to him." But when the decision is made by the president, the national security adviser should be the main implementer and not "sit on" decisions they don't like, he added.
Bolton "is one of the strongest voices and experts on the full range of national security issues and challenges facing the country," according to a White House statement.
Bolton has long been a polarizing figure in Washington and there was near instantaneous strong emotional reaction on social media.
President and CEO Michael Breen of the Truman Project, a nonprofit that advocates on national security and foreign policy issues, said in a statement, "John Bolton's consistent, public, and remarkably unashamed response to nearly every international crisis — including Iraq in 2002 and both Iran and North Korea at present — has been to call for war. He will now serve a president desperately lacking in impulse control, judgment, and national security experience."
Others also are lamenting the choice.
This was a devastating day for the United States as flailing president spurns expert counsel, initiates a global trade war & replaces a well respected general w/a long-frustrated right-wing hawk as national security advisor.— Ernie Bower (@BowerCSIS) March 22, 2018
Fans of Bolton's tough talk are rejoicing, however, including thriller novelist Brad Thor.
- Brad Thor (@BradThor) March 22, 2018
James Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation said Bolton would be a strong adviser to the Trump administration, which must determine the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the possibility of upcoming talks with North Korea.
Carafano said Trump's national security team during the administration's first year "ably handled both crisis and long-term planning. In particular they produced a sound national security strategy and policies to deal with all the major security challenges. General McMaster was a key part of that team and we should all be grateful for his service."
He said Bolton would also be a strong supporter for the badly needed reforms at the U.N. being advanced by current U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Bolton had been mentioned as a possible secretary of state after Trump's surprise election victory in 2016. But news reports quoted Trump associates speculating that it was the former diplomat's bristle-brush white mustache, not his credentials, that had disqualified him.
There had been renewed speculation in recent months that Bolton might finally earn a place in the president's inner orbit and replace either Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (who is being succeeded by Mike Pompeo, who is currently the director of the Central Intelligence Agency) or McMaster.
Asked last week whether there might be more changes after five high-profile departures in a two-week period, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted that Kelly had spoken with staff and assured them there were "no immediate personnel changes at this time."
McMaster is to stay on until mid-April "to ensure a smooth transition," a White House official said.