President Trump announced on Twitter this afternoon that, as of next month, former Ambassador John Bolton will replace H.R. McMaster as his National Security Adviser:
I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018
The NY Times reports the switch had been under discussion for several weeks but was expedited because of the ongoing speculation about further staff changes:
General McMaster will retire from the military, the officials said. He has been discussing his departure with President Trump for several weeks, they said, but decided to speed up his departure, in part because questions about his status were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials.
The officials also said that Mr. Trump wanted to fill out his national security team before his meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un…
Officials emphasized that General McMaster’s departure was a mutual decision and amicable, with none of the recrimination that marked Mr. Tillerson’s exit. They said it was not related to a leak on Tuesday of briefing materials for Mr. Trump’s phone call with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia…
General McMaster carried out a slow-rolling purge of hard-liners at the National Security Council who had been installed by Mr. Flynn and were allied ideologically with Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, earning the ire of conservatives who complained that his moves represented the foreign policy establishment reasserting itself over a president who had promised a different approach.
Trump defended McMaster last August when conservatives began complaining about his staffing changes, but doubt about his tenure descended once again last month when he made a comment about Russian interference in the 2016 election that President Trump did not feel was complete:
General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
As for the timing of this announcement, just last week the Washington Post reported that Trump had decided to replace McMaster. That was quickly denied by the White House (though Ed clearly had some doubts about that at the time):
Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster – contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 16, 2018
Hopefully, this will turn out to be a more graceful exit than the complete mess we saw with Rex Tillerson. The fact that the White House seems to be making an effort to say this is mutual and not related to the “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” leak is a good start.
There’s really one big question remaining: What happens to the ‘stache?
Back in December 2016 there was a story at the Washington Post suggesting that Bolton lost out on the job of Secretary of State, at least in part, because Trump didn’t like people with facial hair.
Several of Trump’s associates said they thought that John R. Bolton’s brush-like mustache was one of the factors that handicapped the bombastic former United Nations ambassador in the sweepstakes for secretary of state.
“Donald was not going to like that mustache,” said one associate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. “I can’t think of anyone that’s really close to Donald that has a beard that he likes.”
Will he need to shave it down for the job? We’ll know by April 9th.
Update: Nice statement from President Trump thanking McMaster for his service. From Politico, this is how it should be done:
“H.R. McMaster has served his country with distinction for more than 30 years,” Trump said in the statement. “He has won many battles and his bravery and toughness are legendary. General McMaster’s leadership of the National Security Council staff has helped my administration accomplish great things to bolster America’s national security. He 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. I thank General McMaster and his family for their service and wish them the very best.”