A visibly happy Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Tuesday that President Trump was well within his rights to, after the president announced Bolton's departure on Twitter barely 90 minutes earlier.
Mr. Trump and his top aides say the president asked for Bolton's resignation Monday night, although Bolton insists he offered his resignation. Bolton was supposed to stand at the podium alongside Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, according to White House guidance issued earlier Tuesday, but he was already out of the administration by 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon when the treasury secretary and secretary of state stepped to the podium.
"I'll leave it to the president to talk about the reasons he made the decision but I but I would say this, the president's entitled to the staff that he wants," Pompeo told reporters in the James S. Brady Briefing Room. "At any moment, this is a staff person who works directly for the president of the United States, and he he should have people that he trusts and values and whose efforts and judgements benefit him in delivering American foreign policy. That's what as cabinet members Secretary Mnuchin and I try and do each and every day and when the president makes a decision like this, he's well within his rights to do so."
Pompeo and Mnuchin spoke to reporters Tuesday ostensibly to announce a presidential executive order to give the president more latitude to impose sanctions to combat terrorism, but it was Bolton's departure from the White House that attracted more attention, especially since Pompeo and Bolton had recently clashed over Afghanistan policy. Pompeo readily acknowledged their differences Tuesday.
"There were definitely places that Ambassador Bolton and I had different views about how we should proceed," Pompeo said of his relationship with Bolton.
The suddenness of Bolton's ouster was apparent, in that the White House had just announced that Pompeo, Mnuchin and Bolton would be holding a briefing when the president soon afterward announced Bolton was out as national security adviser. Bolton was no longer at the White House by the time that Pompeo and Mnuchin held their briefing. Asked whether Bolton's firing had therefore come as a surprise, Pompeo replied, smiling, "I'm never surprised," though he declined to say more about what he called "palace intrigue."
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told a handful of reporters Tuesday that the president and Bolton disagreed on a variety of issues, and the president asked for Bolton's resignation Monday night. But Bolton insists he offered his explanation.
Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked Bolton to resign on Monday evening.
"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, and therefore ... I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
Bolton said in his own tweet that he offered to resign Monday: "I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, 'Let's talk about it tomorrow.'"
The former national security adviser had clashed with Pompeo over recent U.S. negotiations with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
But Grisham insisted the president and Bolton differed on many issues, and the Taliban invite wasn't the breaking point.