Political News

Fact check: Trump falsely claims President George W. Bush fired John Bolton

Posted June 22, 2020 12:37 p.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump has responded to former national security adviser John Bolton's sharply critical book about Trump -- which Bolton describes as "a book about how not to be president" -- with his own criticism of Bolton's character and career.

Bolton departed the Trump administration in September 2019; Trump says he was fired, Bolton says he resigned. On Thursday, Trump tweeted, "President Bush fired him also. Bolton is incompetent!"

Facts First: President George W. Bush did not fire Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton left the Bush administration in 2006 at the expiry of his recess appointment, knowing that he could not get confirmed by the Senate in 2007. After Bolton announced his pending departure, Bush said he was "not happy" Bolton was leaving and that Bolton "deserved to be confirmed" because "he did a fabulous job for the country."

Bush told Bolton in front of reporters: "We're going to miss you in this administration. You've been a stalwart defender of freedom and peace. You've been strong in your advocacy for human rights and human dignity. You've done everything that can be expected for an ambassador."

Bolton had previously served in other senior roles in government, including as Bush's Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs between 2001 and 2005.

He was a controversial choice for UN ambassador over his role in the decision to go to war in Iraq, his generally hawkish views, his history of anti-UN statements, accusations that he had misled the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and accusations that he had bullied subordinates, including those whose intelligence assessments he didn't endorse.

Unable to get Bolton confirmed by the Senate, since Democrats and some Republicans were opposed, Bush used a recess appointment to install him in the post in 2005. The recess appointment could only last until the end of the next session of Congress; Bolton announced his pending departure in December 2006, when it was clear that continued Senate opposition would not allow him to be confirmed by the Congress starting in 2007.

Though Bush himself used the word "resignation" at the time, White House officials argued that Bolton had not actually resigned, since he made clear he would be staying as long as he was allowed.

Whatever you want to call what happened, it certainly was not a firing.

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