President Donald Trump on Wednesday named Robert O’Brien, his envoy for hostage affairs, to replace John Bolton as his fourth national security advisor, elevating a relatively unknown figure in a move that appears to solidify Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s role as the most influential foreign-policy figure within the administration, Foreign Policy writes.
With O’Brien’s scant government experience, his elevation all but ensures that Pompeo will have no major rival in the White House jockeying with him to influence Trump, according to former National Security Council officials and experts who spoke to Foreign Policy.
Two and a half years into the Trump administration, Pompeo remains the sole foreign-policy advisor to have served in the administration since its beginning – first as CIA director, then as secretary of state.
Trump announced the selection on Twitter shortly after saying he would also “substantially increase Sanctions” on Iran after weekend attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that officials in Washington and the region have blamed on the Tehran government, The New York Times adds.
Trump, who is in California for a second day of campaign fundraising, offered no elaboration on how sanctions could be increased, but the move may have been a way of offering a tough response to the attacks in Saudi Arabia without necessarily using military force. His statement came shortly after he retweeted a message defending his decision this summer to call off an airstrike on Iran.
O’Brien served with Bolton when he was President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations and has advised Republican candidates like Mitt Romney, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. In both the Bush and Obama administrations, O’Brien worked on an initiative to train lawyers and judges in Afghanistan.
He was appointed special presidential envoy for hostage affairs under Trump and worked to release Americans held abroad. Among those who have been freed were Andrew Brunson, a pastor held by Turkey for two years, and Danny Burch, an oil-company engineer kidnapped in Yemen and rescued in a raid by forces from the United Arab Emirates.