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Trump: Hostage negotiator picked for national security adviser

Robert O'Brien, U.S. special envoy ambassador, on July

Robert O'Brien, U.S. special envoy ambassador, on July 30. Credit: Erik Simander via AP

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday named the nation’s lead foreign hostage negotiator, Robert O’Brien, as his new national security adviser, following last week’s ouster of John Bolton.

“I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor. I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning.

O’Brien will replace Bolton who left his post last week over differences with Trump on a number of foreign policy issues, including the president’s engagement with longtime U.S. adversaries Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Russian President Vladmir Putin.

Trump appeared alongside O’Brien in Los Angeles, escorting him out to meet with reporters covering the president’s two-day swing through New Mexico and California for a series of campaign fundraisers.

 “He did a tremendous job on hostage negotiations. Really tremendous. Unparalleled. We had tremendous success in that regard … and through hostage negotiation I got to know him very well myself,” Trump said of O’Brien, who has guided the return of Americans detained in Afghanistan, Turkey and Yemen. “Also, a lot of people that I respect rated him as the absolute number one choice.”

 O’Brien told reporters it was a “privilege” to be named to the role and said he recognized the United States faced “a number of challenges” on the world stage.

 O’Brien’s promotion comes as Trump faces a number of high-profile foreign policy conflicts, including escalating tensions with Iran and stalled peace negotiations with the Taliban.

The longtime diplomat would be Trump’s fourth national security adviser in the past three years. The post, which was previously held by Bolton, H.R. McMaster and Michael Flynn, does not require Senate confirmation.

O’Brien previously served under Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, when he was tapped by then-President George W. Bush to serve as part of the U.S. delegation attending the 2005 United Nations General Assembly. The annual gathering of world leaders is set to take place again next week, with Trump slated to speak before the General Assembly next Tuesday.

Earlier this year, Trump directed O’Brien to attend court proceedings in Sweden after American rapper A$AP Rocky was arrested in Stockholm on assault charges. The move drew scrutiny from some U.S. lawmakers who questioned the need to send a top diplomat to intervene in an allied nation’s judicial proceedings. The rapper was found guilty on charges that he assaulted a man during a street altercation, but was ultimately released back to the United States by a judge in Stockholm.

O’Brien previously worked under the Bush and Obama administrations training Afghan judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers, and he once served on a UN security council panel that decided legal claims presented against Iraq after the Gulf War, according to his State Department biography. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve and founded a law firm in Los Angeles that focuses on “complex litigation and international arbitration,” according to his website.

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