President Donald Trump joked that if United States foreign policy was decided by his national security advisor John Bolton, “We’d be in four wars by now.”
The president reportedly made the remarks in private as Bolton angled for deterrents against Iran, according to The New York Times. Officials who spoke with the publication said the president favored his advisor’s tough measures on the Iranian regime, but disliked the narrative that Bolton was moving toward a regime change in the region. Both men have been out-of-lockstep in recent months; before Bolton tasked the Pentagon with drawing up plans to deploy 120,000 troops to the Middle East, he campaigned heavily to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Neither of these potential military escalations sat well with Trump.
The feelings of contempt are mutual—in private, Bolton has also expressed frustration with the president’s unwillingness to push for regime change in the Middle East. Although Trump, earlier this month, wrote on Twitter, “There is no infighting whatsoever,” he appeared to undercut his advisor during a trip to Tokyo last weekend, telling reporters he did not want to install a new government in Tehran.
Trump also contradicted Bolton by saying that North Korea’s recent missile tests do not violate United Nations restrictions (which they do). Several days prior, Bolton had said “there is no doubt” that the ballistic missiles shots did violate Security Council resolutions.
According to the Times, Bolton skipped the state dinner in Japan, though there has been no indication why.