New York CNN Business  — 

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

John Bolton is not going quietly into that dark night. On Tuesday, when President Trump tweeted that he had effectively fired Bolton, the media-savvy Bolton became a one-man PR machine. First, Bolton tweeted that he had resigned, seemingly contradicting Trump’s version of events.

Then, he began texting members of the media to get his story out. While live on Fox, host Brian Kilmeade received a text message from Bolton. “John Bolton just texted me,” Kilmede said, adding, “He said, ‘Let’s be clear, I resigned.‘“NYT’s Peter Baker and WaPo’s Robert Costa received similar texts.

Costa also received a second text. “I will have my say in due course,” Bolton wrote. That begs a natural question, one that Susan Glasser astutely asked: “Will Bolton become the first of the natsec advisers Trump has publicly humiliated to break with him and reveal what has been going on backstage?” Only time will tell…

Return to Fox?

Before Bolton joined the Trump administration, he was a contributor at Fox. As Jamie Weinstein tweeted, “Big Q: Will John Bolton get his Fox News contributorship back — and, if so, will he be a prominent critic of POTUS’ FP on his favorite network going into 2020?”

>> I pinged spokespeople for Fox on Tuesday evening to see if the network would welcome him back on, but did not hear back…

Not if Tucker has any say…

Tucker Carlson, who has been one of Bolton’s fiercest critics, celebrated on Tuesday evening. Carlson opened his show declaring Bolton’s exit to be “great news for America.” Carlson even referred to Bolton as a “man of the left” and “one of the most progressive people in the Trump administration.”

Behind the scenes, Politico’s Eliana Johnson reported that Carlson had told Trump it was a mistake to keep Bolton in his administration. The Politico report said that Carlson and others had told Trump that Bolton not only had policy differences with him, but that he had been using the media against him.

Trump was irked by leaks

Speaking of which… CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that one factor that led Trump to fire Bolton was “the concern inside the White House that Bolton’s aides were making it sound as though Vice President Mike Pence had opposed the Taliban meeting at Camp David.”

“Flatly incorrect”

Bolton told The Daily Beast that the notion he was a leaker is “flatly incorrect.” But he certainly has a reputation in Washington, DC, as being someone who is accessible to reporters. That was on full display Tuesday evening when Bolton answered the door during a media stakeout of his home.

Would not defend on TV

Bolton was hired, in part, because Trump liked watching him on TV. But, recently, Bolton expressed reluctance to defend the administration on-air. Sources told me Bolton had been soft-booked to appear on “Meet the Press” and “This Week” August 25 during the G7, but backed out.

An official added to CNN’s Kevin Liptak that Bolton felt uncomfortable defending Trump on various issues, including Russia. Other officials told CNN that Larry Kudlow and Steven Mnuchin were simply better positioned to speak about economic issues, which were also in focus at the G7.

>> James Poniewozik: “Live by the tube, die by (the reluctance to go on) the tube…”

The big picture

WSJ’s main story by Michael C. Bender and Vivian Salama makes this point: “The ouster, on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, showed how debate over policies in Afghanistan and the Middle East continues to dominate U.S. foreign policy and divide the Republican Party nearly two decades later…”

“The Only Plane in the Sky”

Brian Stelter emails: Garrett Graff’s “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11” came out on Tuesday. I’m in the middle of reading the book now, and had a hard time putting it down to write this recommendation.

The AP’s Will Lester sums up my feelings about why it is so riveting: “Most people are aware of the events that followed, but what has faded from memory over the years are the dramatic details, like the emotional accounts of people telling their loved ones that they were trapped in the upper floors of the towers or on hijacked planes.” Great journalism helps ensure that we don’t forget.

Graff is also out with this essay for The Atlantic about one of the takeaways from his research…


– 8:46am: All of the major networks will carry the day’s first 9/11 memorial moment of silence…

– An unfortunate White House milestone: Wednesday is the six-month mark since the last on-camera press briefing by a W.H. press secretary…


– Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday that “whoever it was that came up with the idea” of “having these Taliban monsters up at Camp David” needs “to have their head examined.” Uh, who wants to tell him? (Mediaite)

– Politicon announced their 2020 lineup for the October 26 and 27 event in Nashville… (The Hill)

– The progressive watchdog Media Matters broke down Sean Hannity’s “obsession” with Hillary Clinton by the numbers… (Media Matters)

– Snapchat will create a dedicated news channel for the 2020 debates… (Axios)

– Andrew Ferguson writes that Malcom Gladwell has reached “his tipping point…” (The Atlantic)

Read more of Tuesday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

– ABC is launching a video series called “Around the Table” which brings three undecided voters together with a Democratic presidential candidate… (Variety)

– Stephanie Ruhle is hosting a new podcast called “Modern Ruhles…” (NBC News)