According to a former senior defense department insider, National Security Advisor John Bolton and his top deputy are leading a "whisper campaign" hoping to accelerate the departure of Defense Secretary James Mattis in order to solidify the hawkish Bolton's influence over President Donald Trump.
Foreign Policy reports Bolton has enlisted one of his senior aides -- Deputy National Security Advisor Mira Ricardel -- to spread rumors about Mattis leaving sooner rather than later.
A former senior defense official told FP that Bolton believes Mattis is “not ideologically aligned" with a Trump administration that wants to be quicker on the trigger to respond to international confrontations than the less confrontational -- and more introspective -- former United States Marine Corps general.
Describing Bolton and his aides as having " the knives out," the ex-defense official said Mattis' detractors are trying “to build the sense that he is done for.”
According to one White House official, “Mira and Bolton are the only ones who benefit if Secretary Mattis leaves,” because Mattis is considered a moderating force by Republicans and Democrats alike.
A former official said Trump's irregular National Security Council meetings—where he gets advice and viewpoints from multiple officials -- worries Pentagon officials because they feel their voices are not being heard consistently by a president notable for reacting to the last thing he has been told.
“What that means is that the president is not regularly hearing in any organized and disciplined fashion from the full range of his advisors,” the former official said. “He is getting [the meetings] one-off and ad hoc, and often controlled by Bolton.”
Bolton's spokesperson, Garrett Marquis, has denied the accusations of White House intrigue.
“Ambassador Bolton is working closely with Secretary Mattis to implement the President’s agenda,” Marquis said. “Any indication otherwise is flatly wrong.”
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