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Bolton Appointment 'Raises Some Concerns,' Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Says

President Trump has tapped John Bolton to become his next national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster. Bolton is a former ambassador to the United Nations known for hard-line stances against North Korea and Iran.

Leon Panetta, who served as both CIA director and secretary of defense under President Obama and White House chief of staff for President Clinton, says the move “raises some concerns.”

“My view is that a president is best served by a national security adviser and a National Security Council that are willing to present a really diverse set of views to the president, to make sure that he’s well-informed and that he makes decisions based on the facts and not emotions,” Panetta tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson. “And I’m a little concerned that John Bolton has his own view, obviously a hawkish view, of how to approach these issues.”

Interview Highlights

On what Bolton’s appointment might mean for U.S. foreign policy

“There are a lot of concerns, because we’re dealing with a lot of flashpoints in the world. I’ve never seen this many flashpoints since the end of World War II. We’ve got a potential trade war on our hands, we’re dealing with North Korea and a possible summit there. We’ve got China being much more assertive, we have Russia being much more assertive. We’ve got the Iranian regime, and trying to deal with them and the nuclear agreement, and we’ve got cyberattacks. I mean, no matter where you look, there are serious crises, and the real question is whether or not those crises are going to create a situation that will involve the United States in a war. That’s the concern. And obviously moving the National Security Council to the hard right … I mean, McMaster, [former Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson and [Secretary of Defense James] Mattis were a checkpoint here. Now it’s going to be up to Mattis to be a checkpoint on some pretty hard-line views.”

On recent White House staff turnover

“I have never seen the situation in Washington as chaotic as it is now, just because of not only policy decisions that are being made by this president, but the tremendous turnover that’s taking place in the White House staff. We’ve got over 43, 45 percent of that staff that has turned over, and when that’s happening, the ability to try to make sure that there’s some kind of stable consideration of the crises that this president has to face, it just makes it very difficult to conceive how that can happen in the midst of chaos and disruption.”

On his response to critics of Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee for CIA director, who’s facing questions about her time at a secret prison in Thailand

“I would hope that the Senate in looking at Gina will look at her entire CIA career. Obviously, there are questions about her role at that point in time. I think she can respond to those questions effectively. They should certainly ask those questions. But I think they should also look at her entire career. She’s a pretty dedicated CIA officer who at least in my experience always did her job and did it well. She knows the CIA and I think can do a good job. But it is important for the Senate to ask those questions, because I think the United States needs to know that they do have a CIA director who understands what torture’s all about, but also understands what the responsibility of providing solid intelligence is all about as well.”

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