President Trump blasted his former national security adviser John Bolton from the White House on Wednesday, saying he had been fired after making “some very big mistakes” and that he did not get along with others in the administration.
In a public rebuke of a top aide that would have been extraordinary before the Trump White House, Trump said Bolton had “set us back” and that the adviser had disagreed with the president on various national security issues.
He slammed a mistake Bolton made early in his tenure at the White House when he discussed a “Libyan model” in the context of North Korea — which that country took as a sign that its leadership could meet the fate of former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
While he insisted he had gotten along with the adviser, he also ridiculed Bolton for getting the United States involved in the Iraq War.
“So, John is somebody that I actually got along with very well. He made some very big mistakes,” Trump said a day after his abrupt ousting of Bolton.
He said the “Libyan model” remark had set back talks with North Korea and was “not a good statement to make.”
“And it set us back, and frankly he wanted to do things — not necessarily tougher than me — You know John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough he got us into Iraq … but he’s actually somebody I had a very good relationship with. But he wasn’t getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important.”
Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un no longer wanted to work with Bolton after the Libya remark.
“As soon as he mentioned that, the Libyan model, what a disaster. Take a look at what happened to Gadhafi,” Trump said. “I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that. And he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that’s not a question of being tough. That’s a question of being not smart to say something like that.”
Trump later belittled Bolton as “Mr. Tough Guy.”
“John wasn’t in line with what we were doing and actually in some cases he thought it was too tough what we were doing,” he said. “Mr. Tough Guy, you know, you had to go into Iraq. Going into Iraq was something he felt very strongly about.”
Trump has ripped other aides after they left the White House, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former Defense Secretary James Mattis, as well as the short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
Trump also acknowledged Wednesday that the two may not have parted ways on good terms, telling reporters: “I hope we left on good stead, but maybe we haven’t.”
Trump tweeted Tuesday that he had fired Bolton by telling him Monday evening “that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” pointing to disagreements with the national security adviser and others in the administration.
But Bolton immediately disputed his account, tweeting that he offered to resign on Monday and that Trump had asked to talk about it the following day.
Bolton resigned effective immediately on Tuesday, according to a copy of his brief resignation letter.
Trump said Wednesday he thought Bolton would try to “spin it his way,” claiming that he asked for Bolton’s resignation at a meeting in the Oval Office on Monday.
Bolton and Trump clashed on various foreign policy efforts, including North Korea and Iran. Bolton also reportedly objected to Trump’s scrapped plans to meet with the Taliban at Camp David, a dispute that seemed to be the breaking point for their relationship.
Trump reiterated Wednesday that he would make an announcement on Bolton’s replacement next week, saying the White House has five candidates.
“We have a lot of good people who want that position,” Trump told reporters. “Well, I have five people who want it very much.”
“There are five people I consider very qualified, good people I have gotten to know over the past three years,” Trump said.
Bolton said last spring that Libya could serve as a model for how to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, remarks that caused Pyongyang to threaten to cut off talks. Trump later contradicted Bolton, saying, “the Libya model isn’t the model that we have at all when we’re thinking of North Korea.”
Updated at 2:00 p.m.