Republicans and Democrats raise serious questions about Trump’s national security adviser pick

John Kasich Screenshot via CNN
  • President Donald Trump’s appointment of former UN ambassador John Bolton to national security adviser has led people from both parties to raise concerns about his views.
  • Former President George W. Bush’s national security adviser said he is concerned about Bolton’s views, as did Gov. John Kasich and others.
  • Sen. Time Kaine raised doubts about Bolton’s ability to gain a security clearance in the White House.
  • Bolton has been decried as a hawk with anti-Muslim views by his opponents.

Lawmakers, former advisers, and generals weighed in on President Donald Trump’s latest staff shakeup on Sunday.

Trump named John Bolton to be his national security adviser on Thursday, replacing Army Gen. H.R. McMaster. Bolton, who served as former President George W. Bush’s US ambassador to the United Nations, is slated to succeed McMaster next month.

But his hawkish stance and highly controversial views on Muslims have led officials from both parties to express deep-seated doubts about his selection, while some say a diversity of opinions in the White House is a good thing. Even those who offered words of support for Bolton said they were concerned about some of his views.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, who served under both Bush and former President Barack Obama, said Bolton’s appointment is certain to change US foreign policy.

“I actually don’t know how it can’t,” he told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.” “I am concerned if I believe Mr. Bolton’s rhetoric, where he’s talked about pre-emptive strike or even pre-emptive war in North Korea. He’s obviously very strongly opposed to the nuclear deal on Iran.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, said Bolton’s position on pre-emptive strikes are troubling.

“That kind of language bothers me,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Although Kasich said it is important for the president to hear out a diversity of views about foreign policy issues, he added that the US should not be taking aggressive stances toward other countries by default.

“The most important thing we need to do is engage the world, not fight with them,” he told host Brianna Keilar. “America cannot build a wall around itself.”

Former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley agreed, and said Bolton’s views are a matter of concern for him, but do not necessarily mean the US will go to war anytime soon.

“On the issue of a lot of concern about whether Bolton will take the country to war … it is the president that makes those decisions,” Hadley said on “This Week.” “I think the rhetoric out of John Bolton has been a little bit extreme for my taste.”

Concerns about Bolton’s overseas activities

John Bolton
Former United States ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on March 29, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, said Bolton’s foreign contacts might become a serious hurdle to his obtaining a security clearance to work in the White House.

“Reports surfaced right after the was named about a speech that he gave in Russia in 2013 at the request of a Russian oligarch who is very close to Vladimir Putin,” Kaine said on CNN. “These kinds of contacts with foreign governments … raise real questions in my mind whether he would get a full security clearance or not.”

Security clearances in the White House have become an increasingly pressing issue since former White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s domestic abuse scandal. Porter had been operating on a temporary security clearance as the FBI investigated past violent behaviour his two ex-wives alleged.

White House chief of staff John Kelly instituted new guidelines related to security clearances amid the Porter scandal that he said would help close some loopholes. Last month, all White House aides who held interim top-secret clearances were downgraded to “secret,” Politico reported.

Bolton was reportedly been under consideration for secretary of state after Trump’s electoral victory in 2016.

In addition to his hawkish rhetoric on Iran, North Korea, and other countries, Bolton also sits on the board of a think tank that often pushes misleading information about Muslim refugees in Europe, and presents them as an existential threat to the Western world. He has received $US310,000 from the organisation, according to The Intercept.