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NSA John Bolton stonewalled from meetings, suspected of leaking



US officials have stymied National Security Adviser John Bolton’s efforts to get involved in matters of foreign policy, and have even gone so far as to try and exclude him from top level meetings, according to a Washington Post report published Friday.

According to the report, which cited six unnamed senior US officials, Bolton was not initially invited to a meeting comprised of top military officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The meeting to discuss a possible peace plan with the Taliban in Afghanistan was held at President Donald Trump’s golf club in New Jersey earlier in August.

“This is jaw-dropping,” Susan Rice, former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, said on Twitter. “Never heard of an NSA being cut out and dissed like this.”

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Bolton, who is widely viewed as a foreign policy hawk, was originally not invited to the meeting due to concerns he would derail the plans, several senior officials familiar with the matter told The Post.

Bolton replaced H.R. McMaster in March, and has been criticized for his past views and tendencies. He has written opinion columns discussing the merits of preemptively attacking North Korea, and has railed against the US’s strategy on Iran in interviews.

Bolton’s opposition to the US’s diplomatic strategy in Afghanistan, where the US nears its 18th year of war, has even annoyed Trump, senior officials said to The Post. Trump said Thursday he would draw down the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 8,600, and that peace talks with the Taliban were progressing.

The senior US officials have also been wary of Bolton’s activities and have been concerned about leaks from his team. According to one official in the report, Bolton requested a draft copy of the US agreements with the Taliban but was denied by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US representative for peace in Afghanistan, and could only read it with another senior official present.

One official reportedly downplayed the implications and said the draft was eventually sent to the National Security Council.

“His team has a reputation for losing and leaking,” a senior official told The Post.

“It’s messed up on so many levels that the national security adviser isn’t involved, but trust is a real issue,” another senior official reportedly said.

In response to The Post’s questions, Bolton said he can “categorically deny leaks by me or anyone authorized to speak to the press.”

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