President names new national security adviser
WASHINGTON —President Donald Trump named Robert O’Brien, the US hostage negotiator, his new national security adviser on Wednesday.
“I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor. I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!” Trump tweeted.
The announcement came a week after President Trump fired John Bolton over disagreements on Iran and other issues.
Aides expected an announcement because acting national security adviser Charlie Kupperman, who took over in Bolton’s absence, was not scheduled to travel to New York for next week’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, President Trump highlighted O’Brien’s praise of him in securing the release of hostages.
“Robert O’Brien said, ‘Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator in history.’ He happens to be right,” President Trump said, according to pool reporters. “We are 38-0. 38-0, ask Robert. In fact, I had never heard the term. Robert O’Brien said Donald Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator of all time. 38-0. At the time he said it we were 29-0. We are 38-0.”
President Trump personally dispatched O’Brien to help free US rapper A$AP Rocky from Swedish prison earlier this year. The hostage negotiator interviewed for the post with the President and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney last week.
O’Brien enjoyed support from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is now the most influential national security voice in the administration.
President Trump ‘wants a consensus builder’
One senior White House official argued the pick shows that Trump “wants a consensus builder, not a showboater” in the role, suggesting O’Brien will cut a lower profile and work better with others in the administration than John Bolton did.
O’Brien, though, has far less national security or foreign policy experience than past national security advisers — under President Trump or otherwise. CNN previously reported that the national security adviser role was expected to be diminished in the wake of Bolton’s departure as President Trump increasingly relies on his own instincts.
President Trump was considering a number of other candidates for the post, and yesterday named five people under consideration: O’Brien, Ricky Waddell, Fred Fleitz, Keith Kellogg, and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty.
Other officials believed to be under consideration included the US special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, who is close to Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, but who was criticized as a “Never Trumper” by other advisers. President Trump had also been considering Rob Blair, a national security aide to Mulvaney, who is nonetheless considered a long shot inside the West Wing.
President Trump has solicited recommendations on the selection from advisers and friends, but officials said he would likely rely principally on advice from Pompeo. Trump said last week that he’d asked his chief diplomat if he was interested in also taking on the national security adviser job but that he had declined.
President Trump has picked O’Brien at a time when he is confronting another crisis in the Middle East following the attack on Saudi oil fields — a situation that lays bare his dueling instincts in the region, inclinations that ended Bolton’s tenure and are bound to complicate his replacement’s.
In mulling his response options, President Trump finds himself drawn in opposing directions. While he has long sought to appear strong on Iran, he has promised voters he won’t be drawn into another Middle East war and says he’s open to talking.
CNN previously reported that in his interviews and in interactions over the past days, President Trump has sought to gauge whether those vying for the national security post agree with his overarching view that the United States should limit its activities abroad, according to people familiar with the matter.