How this White House works: 10:55 AM notice that Bolton will brief with Pompeo and Mnuchin this afternoon. Trump tweets at 11:58 AM he asked Bolton to resign last night. Bolton tweets minutes later that he was supposed to talk with Trump today. White House says nothing past tweet.
That’s from the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, who recounted the confusion around the ouster of national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday afternoon.
Mike Pompeo and Steve Mnuchin delivered a briefing on counterterrorism sanctions shortly after the president and Bolton tweeted competing accounts of what happened over the past 24 hours.
Trump says Bolton was fired. Bolton says he resigned.
Read more: Trump Fires John Bolton. And His Mustache.
Tuesday afternoon’s briefing, which Bolton was supposed to attend, “devolved into loud shouting, hollering and hand waving”, WaPo’s Dawsey sighed, adding that “Pompeo and Mnuchin just looked at reporters and seemed to be enjoying it”.
Or at least they seemed to be enjoying it until a reporter cut to the chase. “Mr. Secretary, is this national security team a mess?”, someone shouted at Pompeo.
Mike kept his cool, donning the same frozen, patronizing smirk he maintained throughout the melee, but Mnuchin lost it.
“A-a-absolutely not”, Steve interjected. “That’s the most ridiculous question I’ve ever heard of”, he pressed.
A visibly amused Pompeo seemed surprised at Mnuchin’s zeal.
“Well, you’ve been through three national security advisers in three years”, the reporter reminded Mnuchin. Pompeo grinned some more as Mnuchin attempted to list everyone who comprises the national security team.
“Let me just say, the national security team consists of… the… national security adviser, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, myself and many others”, Mnuchin stammered.
In other words, when asked by the press to reassure the American people that the country’s national security team isn’t in shambles, Steve tried to list the members of that team and came up with Bolton, Pompeo, Mark Esper, himself and lots of “others”, whose names escaped him during the only moment when he needed to remember them.
It wasn’t a good look.
As far as rumors about why the CIA was forced to extract from Moscow one of the most valuable intelligence assets the US has ever had, Pompeo swears that reporting by CNN and The New York Times is “factually wrong”.
Draw your own conclusions.
And just ignore those creepy, condescending smiles.