Mattis Dismisses Rumors of Apprehension About Working With John Bolton

'Last time I checked, he's an American. I can work with an American, OK?'

James Mattis / Getty
James Mattis / Getty
March 27, 2018

Secretary of Defense James Mattis dismissed reports that he's apprehensive about John Bolton joining the Trump administration, saying that he had "no reservations" about their ability to work together.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Mattis pushed back on rumors circulating throughout the media that he was opposed to Bolton's appointment as national security advisor, the Washington Examiner reported.

Foreign policy experts have speculated that Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, would pursue a significantly more hawkish foreign policy agenda than President Donald Trump's most recent national security advisor, Lt. General H.R. McMaster. Mattis and McMaster have been characterized by some as voices who tempered Trump's foreign policy agenda. Since news first broke of McMaster's departure, rumors have also floated that it is only a matter of time before Bolton and Mattis clash.

On Tuesday, Mattis expressed confidence in his ability to find common ground with Bolton, saying he had "no reservations, no concerns at all" about forming a partnership.

"We’re going to sit down together. I look forward to working with him," Mattis said.

The retired Marine Corps general added that having an ideologically diverse foreign policy team was beneficial as it would offer differing perspectives on the most pressing issues of the day.

"I hope that there are some different worldviews," he said. "That’s the normal thing you want, unless you want groupthink."

One particular area of policy that could prove an early trouble spot for Bolton and Mattis is what to do about the Iran nuclear deal, the international framework that seeks to prevent Iran from developing further nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. In the past, Bolton has advocated for Trump to rip up the deal, while Mattis and McMaster counseled the administration to abide by the agreement, at least for a time. Trump has set a May 12 deadline by which the U.S. has to decide whether it will waive sanctions against Iran, leave the deal, or attempt to renegotiate the framework.

If Mattis is perturbed by the idea of working with the hawkish Bolton, he didn't let it show.

"Last time I checked, he's an American. I can work with an American, OK?" Mattis said.