Those who work for President Donald Trump understand the basic bargain. They stay in the job only so long as Trump wants them around, and when he doesn’t, they’re liable to be booted in humiliating fashion. Which is to say, by tweet.
Often Trump shows the ousted aide some initial flicker of respect. When Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in December, Trump tweeted that he had served “with distinction.” Pushing out Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in 2017, Trump tweeted that the two had “accomplished a lot together.”
For John Bolton, Trump mostly dripped disdain in a pair of tweets yesterday that illustrated that the quickest path toward irrelevance in the Trump White House is telling the boss no. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump wrote. “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration …”
With Bolton gone, Trump loses a rare dissenting voice within his inner circle. Ascendant is Bolton’s chief bureaucratic rival, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who mastered a practice that’s necessary for long-term survival in the Trump White House: saying yes to the president.
Pompeo is now unchallenged when it comes to shaping foreign policy. Trump doesn’t have the same rapport with either his defense secretary, Mark Esper, who was confirmed by the Senate just two months ago, or his CIA director, Gina Haspel, who replaced Pompeo in the job. One by one, Trump has shed aides determined to push back when he follows his gut instincts.