National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton is planning to depart the Trump administration, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced on Sunday, leaving President Donald Trump without one of his top foreign policy communicators as a series of international issues loom.
Anton’s departure comes amid a series of changes at the National Security Council, including former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton taking the helm on Monday after H.R. McMaster stepped down as Trump’s top national security adviser. Anton was brought into the NSC by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who plead guilty to lying to the FBI last year.
“Michael is one of the smartest and most talented individuals I’ve ever worked with – not to mention an amazing chef,” Sanders said Sunday. “He has been more than a colleague, he is a true friend. Every day I got to work with Michael was a good day, and he will be greatly missed.”
Trump called Anton on Sunday and thanked him for his service, a White House official said.
“He said he is a great guy and we will all miss him,” the official said.
International issues loom for the President and are likely to dominate the coming months, leaving a hole in the National Security Council that aides and advisers are going to be eager to fill.
Trump is under pressure to take action in Syria, after an attack reportedly killed 70 people in what several Syrian activist groups described as a brutal attack in which toxic gas inside barrel bombs were dropped by helicopters in Douma, a suburb of Damascus.
Trump notably blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin by name on Sunday for “backing Animal Assad.” He add that there was a “big price to pay” for the attack.
Additionally, Trump is slated travel to Peru and Colombia this week for a series of meetings, and has meetings with Putin and North Korean Kim Jong Un looming.
Anton, an at times acerbic communicator, was well liked by his White House colleagues and known as the rare conservative intellectual that joined the Trump administration.
Months before the 2016 election, Anton – reportedly writing under the name Publius Decius Mus – wrote “The Flight 93 Election,” an article that praised Trump’s campaign and argued that a Clinton presidency “is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto.”
“With Trump,” he wrote, “at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”