Who Is Robert C. O’Brien, Donald Trump’s New National Security Advisor?

Robert C. OBrien, special envoy sent by Donald Trump, leaving the courthouse during the lunch break on the second day of the A$AP Rocky assault trial at the Stockholm city courthouse.
Michael Campanella / Getty Images

After much deliberation, President Donald Trump has finally announced the name of his new national security advisor. Replacing outgoing figure John Bolton — a controversial personality who had developed a reputation for having a hawkish stance on international affairs — Robert C. O’Brien will be stepping into a hotly contested, and difficult, role.

Trump tweeted the news of Bolton’s replacement just moments ago, via Twitter.

“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!”

O’Brien originally came from a legal background, and he was a founding partner the law firm Larson O’Brien. However, he soon managed to merge his passion for the law with his diplomatic abilities. Under both President Bush and President Obama, O’Brien worked on a program that helped build up legal infrastructure in Afghanistan by training lawyers and judges.

Despite his work for President Obama, O’Brien later wrote a book that severely critiqued what he deemed were the former president’s international relation failures, and outlined a way in which he believed Republicans could take back power and restore American leadership.

“The GOP is winning and will win in the future because it promotes freedom,” he wrote in a passage that seemed to echo much of Trump’s rhetoric (via The New York Times).

However, it is not just O’Brien’s prose that caught Trump’s eye. O’Brien managed to impress the president with his abilities in helping extricate Americans detained in countries such as North Korea and Turkey. It is estimated that the Trump administration, with O’Brien at the help as Chief Hostage Negotiator, has managed to free around a dozen hostages.

Though this has generally been accomplished via diplomatic leverage, it has also on occasion involved high-risk military raids in Africa and Yemen carried out by allies France and the United Arab Emirates.

Joe Miller has worked with O’Brien after his brother-in-law went missing in Afghanistan in 2016. Though the brother-in-law has not yet been found, Miller nonetheless praised O’Brien, claiming that he truly cares about hostages and their families, per The New York Times.

“He has a tough job,” Mr. Miller said. “He’s not only trying to negotiate with foreign powers and criminal organizations but he has to navigate his government’s bureaucracy.”

robert o'brien at a$ap rocky case
  Michael Campanella / Getty Images

O’Brien was also involved in trying to free famous rapper A$AP Rocky, who was held in Sweden for close to two months earlier this summer due to assault charges. Though negotiations with the Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Lofven, broke down, O’Brien was nonetheless in court during Rocky’s trial to oversee the process.

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Ironically, O’Brien has a history working with John Bolton, the man he is replacing. In 2005, O’Brien was nominated to be a representative to the United Nations General Assembly; at that time, Bolton was the U.N. ambassador.

O’Brien has also has a history working against Trump, as he advised both Scott Walker and Ted Cruz on their political campaigns.

However, any conflict between Trump and O’Brien has long since been buried, and O’Brien has glowingly praised Trump, which the president was sure to post to Twitter this past April.

“‘President Donald J. Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States. 20 hostages, many in impossible circumstances, have been released in last two years,'” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, apparently quoting O’Brien.

“‘No money was paid.’ Cheif Hostage Negotiator, USA!”