Trump Reveals Top Five Finalists for National Security Adviser

September 17, 2019 Updated: September 17, 2019

President Donald Trump has revealed a shortlist of candidates he is considering to replace John Bolton as the national security adviser.

While speaking to reporters on Air Force One en route to California, Trump said he was considering Robert O’Brien, Ric Waddell, Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, Fred Fleitz, and Keith Kellogg for the important post.

The names listed in his consideration are familiar faces within Trump’s administration. O’Brien—who Trump described as “fantastic”–has a long history in Republican foreign policy circles. He also works as an aide for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and leads the U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts on overseas hostage-related matters.

Waddell previously served as deputy White House national security adviser for a year when Bolton’s predecessor retired General H.R. McMaster was in the top role. He also previously served as the assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When talking about Waddell, Trump remarked, “I like [him] a lot.”

Gordon-Hagerty serves as the Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy and the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. She has previously held other leadership positions such as the Director of Combating Terrorism, National Security Council staff.

Fleitz was a former CIA analyst and who also served as an aide to Bolton. He served as his chief of staff both on the security council and when Bolton was an official in the State Department under former President George W. Bush.

Kellogg, on the other hand, was the executive secretary of the National Security Council until Bolton took over the office 17 months ago. When mentioning Kellogg, Trump said, “I love Keith Kellogg. Keith Kellogg he’s been with me from the beginning. He’s great.”

Trump said on Sept. 11 that he would name someone to replace Bolton as the national security adviser this week. Bolton was dismissed from his position on Sept. 10 because he “wasn’t in line” with what the Trump administration wanted to do.

“I have five people that want it very much. A lot more than that would like to have it. But there are five people I consider very highly qualified, good people I’ve gotten to know over the last three years and we’ll be announcing somebody next week, but we have some very highly qualified people,” he said while speaking to reporters at the Oval Office.

“So I wish John the best … I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can do to spin it his way. John came to see me the night before … and he sat right in that chair and I told him John, there are too many people, you’re not getting along with people. And a lot of us, including me, disagree with some of your tactics and some of your ideas. And I wish you well, but I’d like you to submit your resignation and he did that.”

Trump gave an example of where Bolton had made mistakes such as when he suggested using “the Libyan model” in dealing with North Korea.

“John is somebody that I actually get along with very well. He made some very big mistakes when he talked about the Libyan model for Kim Jong Un. That was not a good statement to make. You just take a look at what happened with Gaddafi. That was not a good statement to make. And it set us back,” Trump said.

“And frankly he wanted to do things—not necessarily tougher than me. John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough he got us into Iraq. That’s tough. But he’s somebody that I actually had a very good relationship with, but he wasn’t getting along with people in the administration who I consider very important. I hope we’ve left in good standing, maybe we have and maybe we haven’t. I have to run the country the way we’re running the country.”

“The Libyan model—what a disaster … And he’s using that to make a deal with North Korea? And I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that. And he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that’s not a question of being tough, that’s a question of being not smart saying something like that,” Trump later added.

Epoch Times reporter Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report.

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