The neocon’s man

The always-treacherous John Bolton is working to undermine President Trump:

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton is expanding his influence in increasingly visible ways, pursuing his own longstanding foreign policy priorities at the risk of tensions with top administration officials — and even Donald Trump himself.

An example spilled into the public eye a week ago, when an irked Trump cryptically announced on Twitter he’d undo some North Korea-related sanctions blessed by Bolton. The president’s decision was quietly walked back and the sanctions remain in place.

Since joining Trump’s White House, Bolton has pursued an agenda that includes trying to break Iran financially, oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, shield Americans from the reach of the International Criminal Court and toughen the U.S. posture toward Russia. He coordinated with key lawmakers, U.S. diplomatic and defense officials and the Israelis to compel Trump to slow an abrupt withdrawal of American forces from Syria.

Bolton, 70, has meanwhile adopted an increasingly public profile on Twitter, Trump’s social media platform of choice. Through a spokesman, he declined to be interviewed for this article.

This story is based on interviews with lawmakers and several current and former White House and diplomatic officials, most of whom asked not to be identified in order to candidly discuss Trump’s third national security adviser.

Bolton’s blunt, unapologetic divide-and-conquer methods don’t surprise anyone who’s watched him in government roles since the Reagan administration or as a pundit on Fox News. He’s always been a deeply ideological thinker who believes the U.S. plays by a unique set of rules and doesn’t mind — or even sometimes relishes — clashing with others to accomplish his goals.

He’s beloved by a loyal cadre of aides while chafing many others inside the administration. Trump is aware that Bolton’s relationships with powerful Republican figures who influence the president, particularly billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, give him an added degree of political cover, according to two people familiar with the matter.

My prediction: Trump will tolerate Bolton as long as he can, then fire him once Bolton goes too far and tries to start a war with Iran.