Yet even after Trump was applauded by many, including McCain, for ordering strikes on a Syrian airfield last year in response to another poison attack, this time around there could be more calls for congressional involvement in any response. This is something Bolton would likely have to consider in his advice to the president.
“The president should not act on his own, as there is no declaration of war or authorization for the use of military force against Syria. Last year’s strikes were unauthorized and strategically ineffective,” retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, who served under McMaster during the Persian Gulf War, told CNBC. “Doubling down would further erode our constitutional norms here at home, and that should worry everyone.”
In addition to that thorny issue, Bolton’s close physical proximity to the president, who is known for impulsively spouting off policy ideas, is likely to make his job even more intense. Trump enjoys the company of his preferred staffers in the Oval Office for much of the day, where the president often asks his closest aides to weigh in on subjects far outside of their professional expertise.
For Bolton, these frequent informal meetings with his new boss could leave him with even less time to formulate policy to match Trump’s agenda and off the cuff remarks. Complicating matters, with several thorny issues confronting the U.S., Bolton will inherit a staff of several hundred specialists from the Pentagon, State Department and U.S. intelligence agencies.
There’s also the looming issue of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. Both Trump and Bolton have been critical of the pact, and the president has called out Iran for supporting Syria during its attacks. Having Bolton on board in the White House could spell trouble for the deal.
“It must be ripped up,” Bolton tweeted in January.