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Trump grew weary of Bolton's push for military force against Venezuela

Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON--President Donald Trump ousted John Bolton in part because of frustration with his third national security adviser's guidance to pair military power with economic pressure against Venezuela, according to current and former administration officials.

One senior administration official said that Trump had grown weary of repeated vows from Bolton that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro would be out of office in short order. A second official said that they had clashed over Bolton's efforts to advance planning for military intervention.

That official pointed to the administration's national security strategy, which predated Bolton's tenure and called for "strong diplomatic engagement" to isolate rogue nations in the Western Hemisphere. "That has been and remains the policy," the official told McClatchy, although officials across the administration insist that all options are on the table.

Bolton left the White House on Tuesday over several bitter disputes with the president and Cabinet members.

"I disagreed with John Bolton on his attitudes on Venezuela -- I thought he was way out of line," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

Bolton raised the potential of military force on several occasions, including in January by walking into the White House news briefing room sporting a pad with a note reading, "5,000 troops to Colombia," revealing private deliberations.


Before Bolton joined the administration, Trump had received guidance that portrayed military intervention in Venezuela as a massive undertaking. Hundreds of thousands of troops would be required for an invasion -- more than were sent into Iraq in 2003 -- and more modest military options, such as a blockade, would still amount to a sizable war effort.

Trump eventually drew a line that Bolton would not readily accept.

"Every time (Bolton) brought up the potential of invasion, and potential use of the military, the president got frustrated and apparently grew tired of it," one former Trump administration official said.

Some National Security Council aides and opposition figures loyal to Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido are concerned that Trump could have an exchange with Maduro at the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month that could confuse U.S. policy. The United States and more than 50 other countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.


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