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Robert O’Brien to replace John Bolton as national security adviser. Here’s what that could mean for Trump’s foreign policy

President Trump announced Wednesday that he had selected former chief hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien to be his new national security adviser. O’Brien will replace John Bolton, who was fired a week ago.

President Donald Trump and Robert O’Brien, just named as the new national security adviser, board Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Evan Vucci, Associated Press

While some thought the firing of John Bolton would result in the dissolution of the role of national security adviser, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Robert O’Brien would fill the position.

Here’s what O’Brien could mean for America’s national security.

O’Brien is a founding partner of the Los Angeles-based law firm Larson O’Brien and will be Trump’s fourth national security adviser in three years.

O’Brien also served as former President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations and has been an adviser for Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, according to CNN.

In his job as the president’s special envoy for hostage affairs, O’Brien has helped with the release of American detainees in multiple countries, including North Korea and Yemen.

As can be seen from Trump’s kind-spirited announcement of his selection, O’Brien has the president’s trust, which will be essential in their success together. It is also something John Bolton didn’t have.

With Trump’s trust, O’Brien will be able to give him honest assessments, even if those assessments conflict with Trump’s opinions or impulses, according to The Washington Examiner.

O’Brien also has a strong background in foreign policy and, due to his recent position handling hostage negotiations, has 16 months’ experience managing high-profile and shadowy negotiations. His close engagement with North Korea and Iran earlier this year are purported to have had a significant influence on Trump’s decision.

According to former American diplomat Brett McGurk, the key thing about national security advisers is that they’re facilitators and they coordinate across multiple agencies to provide the president with the best options possible.

“Where the job really doesn’t seem to work is where a national security adviser has very strong views about foreign policy and sees his job as more of an agent or an implementer with an agenda. And I think John Bolton carried an agenda into the West Wing,” McGurk said.

He added that Bolton’s agenda often contradicted that of the president, leading to a lot of dysfunction and, ultimately, his termination.

“I think with Robert, you’ll be back to the more traditional coordinator, facilitator role,” he said.

By reputation, he’s seen as affable, friendly, a manager, a negotiator — not a sort of sharp-elbowed, outspoken figure, according to NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre.

In the past, though, O’Brien has shown an increasing enjoyment of the limelight and has made some ill-advised remarks on some sensitive issues, which could become a problem somewhere down the line.