White House

List to replace fired national security adviser John Bolton grows to 15

Trump says he makes ‘all the decisions’ so senior advisers ‘don’t have to work’

President Donald Trump walks from the South Lawn to Marine One on his way to Joint Base Andrews in July 2018. He took the executive helicopter to a GOP retreat in Baltimore on Thursday evening. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There are now 15 candidates to replace John Bolton as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, but the president says it will not be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

There was talk around Washington that the former Kansas GOP congressman — rumored to be eyeing a Senate run in his home state next year — might do both jobs after increasingly becoming Trump’s go-to counselor on foreign affairs and national security. But the president put an end to such speculation Thursday evening.

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“I think he’s fantastic. I actually spoke to Mike Pompeo about that,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House to speak to GOP lawmakers at their rescheduled policy retreat in Baltimore. “Everybody wants it badly, as you can imagine. We’ll probably, sometime next week, make that decision. … A lot of people want that job. … It’s very fun to work with Donald Trump.”

The president suggested his secretary of State has recommended someone for the security adviser post, but he did not name a name. The list of potential candidates appears to have grown by 10 in just a day.

Trump also said he makes “all the decisions,” so senior advisers “don’t have to work.”

Trump will soon become the first commander in chief to have four national security advisers in a first term since the position was created after World War II. He has had five in total, with two officials holding the job in an acting capacity, including Charles Kupperman, who temporarily stepped into the role after Bolton was fired — or resigned, as the ex-adviser asserted.

As the House and Senate left for the weekend after their first work week following a monthlong summer recess, there were no visible signs of progress toward a bipartisan and bicameral bill aimed at combating additional mass shootings. Trump, who has yet to make clear just what he would sign into law, was back Thursday to signaling he is open to changes to federal background checks for firearms purchases.

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“We had a big meeting on guns and we had a big meeting on ethanol,” he said. “I think we made some good progress on background checks and guns.”

During another wide-ranging gaggle on the South Lawn over the high-pitched hum of Marine One’s engines, Trump joked that he was disappointed to miss a Democratic presidential primary debate while he is in Baltimore. He also took a stab at predicting his eventual Democratic opponent next year. 

“You have three people leading. I think it’s going to be one of those three,” he said, referring to former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

After ripping the Democratic field for months, Trump was complimentary of those three leading contenders — though he questioned whether the gaffe-prone Biden can avoid making “major mistakes.”

“I respect all of them,” he said. “Let me tell you, it takes a lot of guts to run for office.”

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