President Donald Trump is more isolated than at any time since taking office. And the prime cause of that isolation is John Bolton. Since taking over as National Security Advisor to the President in April 2018, Bolton has purged everyone with area expertise from the National Security Staff and replaced them with sycophants whose primary qualifications are long decades of collaboration with Bolton.
The day after he took over as National Security Advisor, Bolton demanded–and got–the resignation of Tom Bossert, who was the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor to President Trump, holding equal rank to Bolton and having direct access to the President. Soon after Bossert caved in to Bolton's power grab, his deputy Rob Joyce, a top NSA cyber security section head, left the White House and returned to his old job at Fort Mead. Ricky Waddell, the Deputy National Security Advisor was also fired by Bolton, as were NSC strategic communications head Michael Anton and Nadia Shadlow, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy. Shadlow was the principal author of the December 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States.
Having removed the top level of the NSC staff, Bolton installed his former chief of staff at the UN Fred Fleitz as his chief of staff. Fleitz departed in January 2019 to take over the Center for Security Policy from founder Frank Gaffney. Bolton initially hired Mira Ricardel as Deputy National Security Advisor, but she only lasted until November 2018, when First Lady Melania Trump publicly demanded her removal after she was caught leaking negative stories on the First Lady to rightwing media. Bolton replaced Ricardel with Charles Kupperman, who has been a close ally of Bolton since the Reagan era and served on the board of the CSP.
Sarah Tinsley, who ran the John Bolton Super PAC and was Bolton's aide at the State Department and the UN, took over strategic communications for the NSC along with another Bolton longtime underling Garrett Marquis.
The purge and installing of loyalists was only half the picture. Under President Trump's April 2017 national security policy memorandum, the NSC continues to work through the Principals Committee, made up of most Cabinet members; the Deputies Committee; and the Policy Coordination Committees, which do the day-to-day work preparing policy options for the Principals and the President and Vice President.
Since coming in, Bolton has virtually shut down the entire deliberative process. Rarely are there Principal meetings, Deputy meetings or even working sessions of the PCCs. Instead, Bolton maintains a padlock on the Oval Office and brings in individual Cabinet members on specific policy issues. Bolton is omnipresent in all those Oval Office sessions.
Since the December departures of John Kelly and James Mattis, Bolton has had near total control over the flow of policy recommendations into the President. Better said: The lack of flow. The pipeline is shut down to a dangerous degree. In that void, Bolton has the President's ear more than anyone else.
Bolton walks a fine line between influencing Presidential decisions and sabotaging them when Trump goes off message. When the President ordered the withdrawal of the 2,200 US troops from Syria, Bolton–not Secretary of State Mike Pompeo–went to Turkey and Israel to undermine the President's decision by assuring that no viable exit plan could be carried out. When the media started leaking stories that the President had reversed course–a lie countered by Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford within moments of the Wall Street Journal story appearing–there were few who doubted that Bolton or one of his mice was the source of the Administration leak.
Not a good situation campers.