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Trump: Bolton 'was holding me back' on Venezuela

The Hill logo The Hill 9/12/2019 Morgan Chalfant
John R. Bolton wearing a suit and tie: Trump: Bolton 'was holding me back' on Venezuela © The Hill Trump: Bolton 'was holding me back' on Venezuela

President Trump on Thursday argued that his former national security adviser John Bolton was holding him back on foreign policy efforts while speaking out about the former top aide for the second time in as many days.

Trump tweeted that his own "views on Venezuela, and especially Cuba, were far stronger than those of John Bolton. He was holding me back!"

Bolton, who is known for his hawkish positions on U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela, was ousted by Trump on Tuesday in dramatic fashion.

The former aide was a vocal advocate for ending the government of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro and was seen as a driving force behind the White House's push to oust the South American leader.

The Washington Post reported in May that Trump had expressed frustration over the lack of progress on the effort. The Trump administration months ago backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, but Maduro to this day remains in power.

Trump unveiled sanctions on the government of Venezuela at the beginning of August, in what was viewed as an escalation in the White House's efforts to oust Maduro despite the current stalemate.

The Trump administration has also levied sanctions on Cuba in part for its support of Maduro, and sought to reverse former President Obama's push to normalize U.S. relations with Havana during the previous administration.

Trump has also pushed for bringing troops home from abroad, while Bolton was long an advocate for an expansive military presence around the world.

Their differing foreign policy views had long put the two at odds, but their disagreements seemed to fester in recent months, coming to a head following Trump's scrapped plans to invite the Taliban to Camp David over the weekend.

Bolton is said to have been vocally opposed to the idea, which would have happened days before the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Trump publicly rebuked Bolton during an Oval Office meeting Wednesday, claiming Bolton "set us back" and that he disagreed with important people in the administration. Trump blamed Bolton for missteps on North Korea and also dinged him for his support for the Iraq War.

"And it set us back, and frankly he wanted to do things - not necessarily tougher than me - You know John's known as a tough guy. He's so tough he got us into Iraq ... but he's actually somebody I had a very good relationship with. But he wasn't getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important," Trump told reporters.

Trump's tweet on Thursday came in response to one from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who said he spoke with Trump about Venezuela and that the president told him he disagreed with Bolton on issues but that his views are "the DIRECT OPPOSITE of what many claim or assume."

Rubio said that Trump assured him that if "the direction of policy changes it won't be to make it weaker."

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