WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump and his national security adviser, John Bolton, don’t exactly see eye to eye. That was on full display on Monday when Trump said that he was not “looking for regime change” in Iran.
The president’s comments were in sharp contrast to Bolton, who said in July 2017, before entering the administration, that “the declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran.”
But as Trump privately grumbles about his hawkish adviser, he has reportedly sought advice from the man who once recommended Bolton for the job: Sheldon Adelson.
According to a New York Times report published Tuesday, the president approached the billionaire casino magnate at a recent Republican Jewish Coalition and “asked how he thought Bolton was doing.” Adelson said that if Trump was happy, then he was happy, the report said.
The president is known to fume often about his advisers and staff, and usually polls members of his inner circle when he is deliberating whether to fire them. The Times piece surmised that Trump may have “been testing the reaction of Mr. Bolton’s backer, wary of offending the Republican megadonor.”
Adelson, who is a major GOP supporter, pushed for Bolton when Trump was considering a replacement for his then-national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.
Trump spoke before the RJC in Las Vegas on April 6, indicating that his dissatisfaction with Bolton goes back at least almost two months.
One source told the newspaper that the president’s latest shift in attitude toward Bolton reminded them of his souring on former secretary of state Rex Tillerson; others reportedly predicted Trump would drop Bolton before the reelection campaign took off in earnest next year.
The president has reportedly poked fun at his chief foreign policy adviser, lacerating his famed bellicosity. “If it was up to John, we’d be in four wars now,” a senior official recalled Trump saying.
Since Trump hired Bolton last year, the administration has ramped up its confrontation with Iran, applying “maximum pressure” to the rogue nation.
Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal last year and imposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Last month, he escalated tensions even more by designating the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization and removed waivers on sanctions to prevent five major countries from purchasing Iranian oil.
Democrats and liberal advocacy groups have warned that Trump’s escalatory actions against Tehran could lead to armed confrontation, and potentially another costly and chaotic Middle East war.
According to The Times, Bolton has been unhappy with his boss, as well.
Officials told the paper he has groused about the president not being prepared to push for major changes in the region.