Changes at the top of the White House staff demonstrate that President Donald Trump is “again continuing to follow through on the promises that he made on the campaign trail, which is putting America first,” his original campaign manager said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“And when he brings in new individuals,” said Corey Lewandowski of Trump, “he takes information from all of the people around him and then listens to those positions, and then he makes the final decision.”
It is vital that what Trump has with his staff “are people who are on the president’s agenda,” Lewandowski added. “So he is bringing people in who are on his team to make sure that his agenda is moving forward.”
Trump named former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton Friday as national security adviser, replacing the departing H.R. McMaster. Earlier this month, Trump replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo; he also appointed Larry Kudlow as director of the National Economic Council following Gary Cohn’s resignation.
The president’s critics in the mainstream media and Congress decried “chaos” in the White House, but Lewandowski argued that this quick succession of shakeups shows that Trump is choosing people who are on his side and wants “to make sure that his agenda is moving forward.”
In terms of where McMaster “went wrong,” Lewandowski said he “was the individual in the building who was advocating for a larger presence in Afghanistan — and which the president had talked about during the campaign that he wasn’t in favor of. And more intervention on behalf of the military. And that’s not where this president is.”
Similarly, Tillerson harbored “a fundamentally different philosophy when it came to American relationships abroad,” Lewandowski said.
“You’ve seen a change at the National Security Council. You’ve seen a change at the National Economic Council,” Lewandowski said. “And what I hope both John Bolton and Larry Kudlow bring in is a team which is on the president’s agenda.”
Stephen Hadley, former President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that Bolton “is a very smart, very experienced, very tough guy” with “strong views.”
“But he was, I think on balance, an asset for [Bush] and executed the guidance he got for the president,” Hadley said. “One of the good things is that [Trump] knows him, seems to be comfortable with him, and I think feels that John is more in line with the president’s views and the president is the person elected by the American people to set foreign policy.”
“[Trump] deserves people around him who think the same way,” Hadley added. “I think the issue is going to be as national security adviser you have to have a good relationship with the president, but you also have to have a good relationship with the other NSC principals — secretary of state, secretary of defense. In order to do that, you need to run a transparent, inclusive, open process.”
Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush, said on the ABC program that he worries about some of Bolton’s comments about the U.S.’ mounting pre-emptive strikes on adversary nations.
“He’s going to be the national security adviser, and I certainly hope he can adapt. He’s working for the president,” Mullen said. “So it’s going to be the president’s views that I think Mr. Bolton will actually in the end execute.”
“[Bolton] also needs to get in there. Give him a chance to perform in this job, and his knitting together of the team is going to be very important as well,” Mullen added. “Although certainly reports talk about that being a very difficult challenge for him, as well.”
In response to Mullen’s concerns, Hadley said, “It is the president that makes those decisions.”
“I think the rhetoric out of John Bolton has been a little bit extreme for my taste,” Hadley said. “But we have to make this point, give this to the administration that while they were criticized for too much rattling of the sword with respect to North Korea, it did get China’s attention. It did convince China that the status quo was not sustainable.”