Didn’t see this one coming. I’m guessing Bossert didn’t either, as he was the administration’s representative on the Sunday show “This Week” just 48 hours ago. Why would they have tapped him for that knowing that he already had a foot out the door?
WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT on Bossert resigning:
“The president is grateful for Tom's commitment to the safety and security of our great country.”
Says Bossert led the WH’s efforts on terrorist threats, cyber defenses, an unprecedented series of natural disasters.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) April 10, 2018
Bossert occupied an interesting niche at the White House. He was there on day one but he wasn’t part of the usual natsec hierarchy. That’s because Mike Flynn was there on day one as well and Flynn wasn’t trusted in the West Wing even at the time. From a WSJ story published the day of Trump’s inauguration:
Concerns about Mr. Flynn led to a decision from Mr. Trump’s team to move some responsibilities for overseeing counterterrorism and cybersecurity away from Mr. Flynn’s office, the people said. Those changes were announced late last month when Mr. Trump named Thomas Bossert as assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. He will report directly to the president instead of to Mr. Flynn.
He was an end-around Flynn, a way to make sure the NSA didn’t control the entire flow of natsec information to the president. Now he’s gone, with no inkling that this was coming. Even to him:
On Monday night, Bossert was socializing with current and former U.S. Intelligence officials at a conference in Sea Island, Georgia, and a source close to him told NBC News that the adviser was unaware of any intention at the White House to seek his resignation, and that he had no plans to quit.
“New team,” the source said, without further explanation.
Bossert has served in the White House since Trump’s inauguration. He’s been a key adviser to the president on cybersecurity and headed up the White House’s response to major hurricanes that struck Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands last year.
But he resisted a reorganization of the National Security Council last year that made him subordinate to the national security adviser, then H.R. McMaster, the person said.
Is that why he’s gone, because he was loath to give up his special access to the president and report to Bolton instead? Did Bolton even give him the opportunity?
This makes two natsec guys forced out by the new NSA since he assumed his duties yesterday. The other was Michael Anton, who wrote the famous “Flight 93 election” essay during the campaign two years ago. Anton’s departure was also a surprise — to him, as well as to the public:
NSC spokesman Michael Anton was not planning to resign Sunday night — but quickly tendered his resignation after finding out yesterday he would be fired Monday morning, a former NSC official and source with direct knowledge of the matter tell me
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) April 9, 2018
In a sense, this was predictable. When a new NSA comes in, naturally he’d want to assemble his own team. McMaster purged Flynn loyalists from the National Security Council after he took the position, remember. The wrinkle with Anton and Bossert, though, is that they’re respected professionally and in the West Wing. Trump seemed to like them too, and keeping the president comfortable with his advisors as he loses one key aide after another (Hicks, Porter, etc) would seem to be a priority. So why’d Bolton do it?
It could be that he suspected Anton and Bossert of leaking. One of the tasks given to him by Trump when he took the position was to find the leakers and purge them. As it so happens, a source whispered to HuffPost yesterday that Anton was probably behind one of the more sensational leaks to hit the papers lately:
Anton, the source added, was the likeliest source of one of the most humiliating leaks for Trump in recent weeks: the disclosure to The Washington Post that Trump had specifically been warned, in all capital letters, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” Vladimir Putin on securing another term as Russia’s president. That warning came prior to a phone call with the Russian leader following an election that was widely criticized as illegitimate. Trump congratulated him anyway.
Did Bolton suspect Bossert of leaking too? Even if he didn’t, he might have had another reason for wanting Bossert out:
Trump NSC source explains to me that Anton/Bosserts jobs both required regular interfacing with @POTUS and that Bolton needed to ensure his people were effectively delivering his message
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) April 10, 2018
Bolton’s trying to end the natsec “Game of Thrones” in the White House before he gets sucked into it. Precisely because Trump trusted Anton and Bossert, they were rivals for influence over his thinking. Bolton’s wiping them away on day one, knowing that this is the choicest moment at which to pull a purge like that. Because he’s doing it early, the firings/resignations can be chalked up to the new NSA simply wanting to install his own team. Nothing personal! If he waited three months to can them, that excuse would no longer be available.
Exit quotation from Bossert, speaking at an event last week: “At the end of the day, the only thing that creates instability or the perception of it is, a, the coverage, and b, the turnover.”