Sep 18, 2019

Trump names Robert O'Brien as national security adviser

Robert O'Brien at A$AP Rocky's trial in Stockholm. Photo: Michael Campanella/Getty Images

President Trump announced Wednesday that he selected Robert O’Brien to be his new national security adviser.

The big picture: O’Brien serves as the Trump administration’s hostage envoy and was sent to Sweden this summer to negotiate the release of rapper A$AP Rocky.

  • His appointment as Trump's fourth national security adviser comes a week after John Bolton's abrupt departure from the White House.
  • The U.S., either on a diplomatic or military level, is currently engaged in conflicts with Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and Afghanistan.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Margaret Talev and Alayna Treene: Trump thinks of O’Brien as a winner, because he has been successful at getting hostages released. He also looks the part — which has consistently been an important qualifier for the president.

  • Trump leaned heavily on Mike Pompeo throughout the process of selecting a new national security adviser, and O'Brien is someone Pompeo has worked well with in the past.

Worth noting: O'Brien has previously worked for both Sen. Mitt Romney and George W. Bush, which could be a sticking point for Trump, who views both as symbolic of the GOP establishment.

  • He's also viewed as far less hawkish than his predecessor — he is a hostage negotiator, after all — but that is a low bar given Bolton's aggressive tendencies.

Go deeper: Trump's anti-Iran strategy is facing its greatest test


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Report: Trump orders National Security staff cut

President Trump and Robert O'Brien on Sept. 18. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump "has ordered a substantial reduction" of the National Security Council's staff, Bloomberg reports, citing 5 people familiar with the president's plans.

The big picture: Some of those sources told Bloomberg the staff cuts are "part of a White House effort to make its foreign policy arm leaner under new National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien." But the move also follows a whistleblower complaint released by a CIA officer who was previously detailed to the National Security Council, per the NY Times.

Go deeperArrowOct 5, 2019

O'Brien names new deputy national security adviser

O'Brien. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien is elevating Victoria Coates, his senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, to serve as deputy national security adviser, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: The move — on the same day O'Brien is holding an all-hands meeting with his staff to lay out his approach — formalizes his prioritization of the region just weeks into his tenure as John Bolton's replacement.

Go deeperArrowOct 10, 2019

Scoop: John Bolton to write Trump book, pairs with top agents

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton has decided to write a book about his time in the Trump administration, according to 2 people familiar with the matter. Bolton has agreed to be represented by Javelin's Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn.

Why it matters: Given the fact that he wrote a book about his tenure in the George W. Bush administration, from the moment he left the White House, senior officials privately expressed concerns about what Bolton might say and reveal about his time serving Trump.

Go deeperArrowOct 10, 2019