This week, the Trump train kept on hurtling ahead with wild abandon, and John Bolton fell off. In an early Tuesday message posted to Twitter, President Donald Trump kicked Bolton out of his position as national security adviser, meaning that three people and counting have now served in the position in less than three years. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin flipped out this Tuesday when CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta asked if these developments mean Trump’s national security team is a “mess.” Mnuchin would like us to believe that it’s absolutely not, and the guy who can’t keep a fundamental team in place for very long at all is getting along just fine.
After Acosta asked about the mess possibility, Mnuchin asserted:
‘Absolutely not. That’s the most ridiculous question I’ve ever heard of… Let me just say, the national security team, which is what you asked about, consists of the national security advisor, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, myself, the chief of staff, and many others.’
Asked if the Trump administration’s national security team is “a mess,” Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin says, “Absolutely not. That’s the most ridiculous question I’ve ever heard of.” https://t.co/BBDQfqyezS pic.twitter.com/b1fReOrdd4
— ABC News (@ABC) September 10, 2019
During Mnuchin’s response, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who was conducting the joint press conference alongside Mnuchin — was smirking. It’s worth noting that literally every single position Mnuchin singled out besides his own has had its occupant switched out during the less than three years the Trump team has been in the White House. Trump replaced retired General James Mattis as Defense Secretary first with acting secretary Patrick Shanahan and then with Mark Esper, and he kicked out Rex Tillerson — who he derided as supposedly stupid — and replaced him with Pompeo. He’s also currently on his third chief of staff — so Mnuchin’s snappy argument here doesn’t even hold water.
There’s certainly been a “mess” surrounding Bolton’s abrupt departure. In his initial Twitter announcement, Trump claimed that he’d asked for Bolton’s resignation the night before over a range of policy disagreements, and Bolton had delivered it. Bolton, meanwhile, claims that he resigned rather than getting forced out, and he’s so desperate to push that line that he texted Fox News host Brian Kilmeade while Kilmeade was on the air with the claim.
The meltdown unfolded shortly after plans the president had set up to meet with the Taliban at Camp David fell apart. According to some reporting, Bolton and even Vice President Mike Pence had opposed this plan. The meeting — which would have proceeded shortly before the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, whose perpetrators the Taliban have assisted — was set to be the latest installment in peace talks surrounding the potential for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Camp David meeting was cancelled after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing attack that claimed the life of an American soldier, and those peace talks are now “dead,” Trump says.
Ironically enough, it’s not like Bolton is some kind of peace-loving guy. He’s known for his attachment to policies like regime change, meaning the forceful replacement of a foreign government with an entity more in line with U.S. interests. But Trump was too much even for him, apparently.
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