John Bolton's National Security Council Purge Gathers Velocity

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton speaks during the Freedom Summit the Freedom Summit, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton speaks during the Freedom Summit the Freedom Summit, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

 

John Bolton hasn’t been on the job a week yet and the bodies are continuing to drop at the National Security Council.

Here’s the state of play.

Sunday. Michael Anton. Spokesman. National Security Council. Anton was a Trump supporter during the 2016 and author of the famous essay, “Flight 93 Election.” (I didn’t agree at the time but, in retrospect, it looks prescient.) Anton is one of the original arrivals at the White House. True or false, he was quickly fingered as being the guy who leaked to the press the story about Trump ignoring the instructions not to congratulate Putin. Stories say he heard Bolton was going to fire him and he quit.

Monday. Tom Bossert. Homeland Security Adviser. He started work on January 20, 2017. He’s said to be a favorite of John Kelly–which may or may not have meaning. Mike Flynn had separated the Homeland and National Security functions, the way it was under GW Bush. Obama combined them. And now it looks like Bolton is combining them, too. No word on why Bossert left beyond a feeling that Bolton wanted him gone.

Tuesday. Nadia Schadlow. Deputy national security adviser for strategy. Hired by McMaster and that may have been enough to get her fired. We know Bolton wants to stomp out the damaging leaks, personally and to national security, that have obviously been launched from inside the NSC and her pedigree is more think tank and less political. This probably made her loyalty questionable. (By the way, I’m a big believer in loyalty and the idea that if you can’t give your boss your loyalty you need to find another job.)

Today, Thursday. Ricky Waddell. Deputy national security adviser. He is a two-star in the Army Reserve and was one of McMaster’s first hires, replacing K. T. McFarland. Waddell is staying on until Bolton picks his own deputy. Waddell was given credit for purging the NSC of everyone hired by Mike Flynn, so this is not unexpected.

What does it all mean? In the short run, it means that the NSC is going to be a relatively junior partner in whatever happens in Syria and the North Korea meeting. Too many people are leaving and I suspect the churn down at the desk officer level will be huge. I wouldn’t be shocked to see some of Flynn’s picks reappear (one already has).

In the long run, this could be positive…or not. I don’t know anything about how Bolton works other than you don’t want to cross him. If he brings in loyal and competent people, maybe the NSC can settle down, stop acting like a middle school mean girls clique, and get to work. If not, we’ll be back to where we are now.