Longtime national security expert Fred Fleitz, president and CEO of the conservative Center for Security Policy think tank, has an inside track to replace outgoing National Security Adviser John Bolton, according to informed sources familiar with the situation.
One indication of the president’s thinking may come in the form of a picture Fleitz tweeted shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday, showing him standing by a seated President Donald Trump at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.
Newsmax spoke with Fleitz about the tweet and the announcement of Bolton’s departure, but he said he was unable to comment.
The picture is believed to be a recent image, and possibly from a Tuesday morning meeting with the president. The text Fleitz included in his tweet stated: “Proud to help @realDonaldTrump keep America safe! @securefreedom.”
The president in a tweet on Tuesday stated: “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning.”
Trump added: “I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”
Bolton tweeted that he had offered to resign Monday night. There have been reports in recent weeks of increasing tension among National Security Council staffers under Bolton and other members of the administration.
One source of that friction has apparently been Bolton’s repeated insistence that more be done to challenge and punish America’s geopolitical enemies, including Iran.
Robert Caron, an intelligence community insider who directs an organization titled ReportForThePresident.org, which is believed to reflect the thinking of the intelligence community, told Newsmax on Tuesday he has received reports from his network that Fleitz is expected to get the nod to replace Bolton.
“I have heard something from an extremely reliable source, but that’s probably the extent of what I can say. I can’t say anything else,” he said.
Caron, who led an effort last month to get Fleitz appointed to the Director of National Intelligence post, did however endorse the idea of putting Fleitz in charge of the president’s national security strategy.
“Everyone is on board,” Caron told Newsmax. “Everyone who is a true patriot that is not caught up in the Washington, what’s-in-it-for-me dynamic, would welcome that.”
Fleitz has a reputation for being cerebral and mild-mannered, with a razor-sharp intellect. He is well versed on the labyrinthine byways of Congress, as well as the U.S. foreign policy and intelligence establishments.
His most recent public service was as chief of staff of the NSC under Bolton. Fleitz reportedly left that post on good terms in October to take over the Center for Security Policy, the conservative think tank founded by Reagan-era Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney Jr. Gaffney continues to serve as the non-profit's executive chairman.
Fleitz’s connections to Bolton are interesting in light of the president’s expressed unhappiness over Bolton’s policy recommendations: He served as Bolton's chief of staff when he was undersecretary of state for arms control.
From 2006 to 2011, Fleitz was a senior staffer to the House Intelligence Committee and a key senior adviser to its chairman, then-Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.
Hoekstra, now U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands in The Hague, has consistently praised Fleitz as a rising star in the national security arena. He told Newsmax earlier this year in an email: "Fred was a key part of my leadership team on the committee. With his background from the intel community, and having worked with John Bolton, he brought a very important perspective to the work that we did on the committee."
Fleitz began his intelligence career with the CIA, where he worked for nearly two decades. Caron says the support for Fleitz Fleitz "mostly senior intelligence community officers or flag officers.”
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