President Trump has said he likes to have conflict in the White House — even jokingly embracing the idea of West Wing “chaos.” And few appointments will provide him competing perspectives as much as that of John Bolton.
Trump's newly named national security adviser is one of the most hawkish voices in American foreign policy and has been for years, which could provide a contrast and perhaps a shift in Trump's stated preference for noninterventionism. On nearly every foreign policy issue of substance these days, in fact — North Korea, Russia, Iraq — Bolton seems to be on a completely different page than Trump.
Here's a quick rundown of where they differ.
Talking to North Korea
Bolton says sanctions and talk don't work: “Now that North Korea possesses [nuclear weapons], the U.S. has few realistic options. More talks and sanctions will fail as they have for 25 years.” “The unanswerable reality is that economic sanctions have never stopped a relentless regime from getting the bomb.”
Trump says the sanctions are working and has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “We put very, very strong sanctions and lots of other things we have been doing right from the first day I was in office.”
The Iraq War
Bolton remains one of its staunchest defenders: “I still think the decision to overthrow [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] was correct. I think decisions made after that decision were wrong.”
Trump has regularly said the Iraq War was a colossal mistake: “We've made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place.” “George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.”
Bolton has called Russia's 2016 election interference an “act of war” and said Putin is lying to Trump when he denies it: "... Attempting to undermine America's Constitution is far more than just a quotidian covert operation. It is in fact a casus belli, a true act of war, and one Washington will never tolerate.”
Trump has repeatedly played down Russian interference as inconsequential and the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt”: “The results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians.”
Bolton says Trump should be insulted that Putin lied to his face: “For Trump, it should be a highly salutary lesson about the character of Russia's leadership to watch Putin lie to him.”
Trump has suggested he believes Putin's denials: “Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that.' And I believe — I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says, 'I didn't do that.' I think he's very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth.” “What do you do? End up in a fistfight?”
Bolton has called for tougher sanctions: “If you make them feel pain, and others feel pain, then the possibility of deterring future conduct like this increases.”
Trump resisted signing Congress's package of sanctions, which he called “seriously flawed”: “By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together.”
Russia’s alleged poisoning of an ex-spy
Bolton has called for “a very strong response” to Russia's alleged use of a nerve agent on a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil: “This is unacceptable conduct.”
Trump signed on to a tough joint statement with the leaders of France and Germany but has otherwise not pressed the issue. Even this week, less than three weeks after Skripal's poisoning, he emphasized harmony with Putin:
Bolton has called for regime change: “I had said for over 10 years since coming to these events, that the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs' regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself. And that's why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!”
Trump's White House has declined to call for regime change, though it has come close.
Fred Barbash contributed to this report.