Donald Trump and John Bolton clashed over Iran, North Korea, Venezuela

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WASHINGTON – The political marriage between President Donald Trump and his hawkish national security adviser John Bolton was troubled from the start.

Trump campaigned on withdrawing the U.S. from “endless wars,” while Bolton embraced an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy agenda.

Trump sought negotiations with reviled despots. Bolton wanted the U.S. to topple them.

Their opposing views collided most recently over Afghanistan, spilling into public view over the weekend. Trump disclosed on Saturday that he had invited, and then uninvited, the Taliban – a militant Islamic group – to Camp David to seal a peace deal that would have paved the way for a U.S. withdrawal from that 18-year war. Bolton argued that the Taliban could not be trusted.

Whether that rift was the last straw for Trump, or for Bolton, is not clear. That was just one of oh-so-many matters on which they disagreed.

More:Donald Trump fires national security adviser John Bolton, citing ‘disagreements’

“You can only say ‘no, no, no’ to a president so many times,” said Aaron David Miller, who served as a top State Department negotiator for past presidents of both parties and is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and – the last straw – Afghanistan … They were out of sync both personally and on policy.”

President Donald Trump and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Take North Korea, for starters. Trump relished showy summits with Kim Jong Un, the country’s ruthless leader. Bolton was skeptical that such talks would amount to anything.

More:‘Bolton contradicts Trump on whether he was fired

That was on display during the last Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, where North Korean officials offered to partially dismantle their country’s primary nuclear facility. Bolton, among others, successfully pressed Trump to reject the deal and demand full denuclearlization. The talks collapsed and both leaders went home empty-handed.



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