Meet Robert C. O’Brien, Trump’s new national security adviser and a former hostage negotiator who monitored A$AP Rocky’s trial in Sweden

Robert C O'Brien, US Special Envoy Ambassador, arrives at the district court to follow the trial against US rapper ASAP Rocky (not in picture) in Stockholm on August 1, 2019

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Robert C O’Brien, US Special Envoy Ambassador, arrives at the district court to follow the trial against US rapper ASAP Rocky (not in picture) in Stockholm on August 1, 2019
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FREDRIK PERSSON/AFP/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump tapped hostage negotiator Robert C. O’Brien as his new national security adviser on Wednesday.
  • O’Brien is replacing John Bolton, who was abruptly ousted from the position last week.
  • O’Brien made his public splash earlier this summer when Trump sent him to Sweden to monitor rapper A$AP Rocky’s trial for assault charges.
  • The Washington Post recently reported O’Brien is perceived as “a team player” with “affable demeanor,” a stark contrast with Bolton’s hard-edged and confrontational approach.
  • Here’s how O’Brien went from being a State Department official, Trump’s chief hostage negotiator to his new national security advisor.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump tapped his chief hostage negotiator Robert C. O’Brien to be his new national security adviser on Wednesday. O’Brien is replacing John Bolton, who was abruptly ousted from the position last week. He’ll be the fourth person to serve in the role.

O’Brien captured headlines earlier this summer when Trump sent him to Sweden to monitor rapper A$AP Rocky’s trial for assault charges after a brawl in Stockholm. Now he’s confronted with an escalating crisis on Iran.

Read more: Trump’s new national security adviser is the hostage negotiator he sent to Sweden for A$AP Rocky’s trial

The national security adviser works directly for the president and is typically tasked with leading the NSC staff that researches military and diplomatic options. The position works with cabinet-level officials like the defense, state and treasury secretaries to present the president with the best policy recommendations.

The Washington Post recently reported O’Brien is perceived as “a team player” with “affable demeanor,” a stark contrast with Bolton’s ideological and hard-edged management approach.

The new national security adviser was born in Los Angeles and later graduated with a law degree from University of California, Berkeley. He’s also the co-founder of Larson O’Brien LLP, a law firm in Los Angeles.

O’Brien has advised three presidential campaigns on foreign policy and served in various State Department roles during the Bush administration, according to his law firm biography.

Here’s how O’Brien went from being a State Department official to Trump’s chief hostage negotiator to his new national security advisor.


O’Brien was born in Los Angeles and largely grew up there. He later graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a law degree.

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Flickr/John Morgan

Source: State Department


O’Brien also served a member of John Bolton’s team during the Bush administration. They worked together at the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2005.

Source: US State Department


From 2008 to 2011, O’Brien was appointed to advise the federal government on issues related to the trafficking of antiquities and other cultural artifacts.

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Antiquities.
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Thomson Reuters

Source: US State Department


During the 2016 presidential election, O’ Brien collected a series of foreign policy essays into a book called “While America Slept.” He tore into Obama’s foreign policy and compared his nuclear deal with Iran to appeasement in Munich that emboldened Adolf Hitler in 1938. “America faces a stark choice in 2016 between a continuation of President Obama’s ‘lead-from-behind’ foreign policy and sequester-based national security approach and a return to President Reagan’s ‘leader of the free world’ foreign policy and ‘peace through strength’ national security approach,” O’Brien wrote.

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Robert C’ O’Brien
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


O’Brien praised Trump’s national security strategy even before the president-elect was sworn in. In December 2016, he authored a column where he said America’s allies were starting to pay more for common defense. “We may be witnessing the most impressive presidential transition from a national-security standpoint in history,” he wrote.

Source: The National Interest


In May 2018, Trump picked O’Brien to become his chief hostage negotiator.

Source: Los Angeles Business Journal


O’Brien has lauded Trump for helping bring Americans home. At a March press conference, he said: “The President has had unparalleled success in bringing Americans home without paying concessions, without prisoner exchanges, but through force of will and the goodwill that he’s generated around the world.”

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Robert O’Brien.
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Harmony Gerber/Getty Images

Source: The White House


Over the summer, Trump sent O’Brien to monitor A$AP Rocky’s trial for assault charges after a brawl in Stockholm. “The president asked me to come here and support these American citizens,” Mr. O’Brien told The New York Times. “I’ll be here until they come home.”

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US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert C. O’Brien arrives at the district court, during the third day of A$AP Rocky’s trial, in Stockholm, Sweden August 2, 2019.
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Fredrik Persson/Reuters

Source: The New York Times


O’Brien defended Trump’s decision to send him to Sweden, given he usually handles sensitive hostage negotiations in war-torn countries. “The president sent me here, so it’s totally appropriate. I also help free people that are held by governments, so unjustly detained Americans,” O’Brien told reporters.

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Robert C O’Brien, Special Envoy Ambassador, is pictured outside the courtroom at the district court in Stockholm
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ERIK SIMANDER/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


After ousting Bolton as his national security adviser over fundamental foreign policy disagreements, Trump tapped O’Brien to replace him. He made the announcement on Twitter and praised his “very successful” efforts. “I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!” Trump tweeted.

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U.S. President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles
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Reuters

Source: President Donald Trump’s Twitter account


O’Brien was reportedly boosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, given their work on several hostage cases. They collaborated on the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey as well as those of other detained Americans from Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya.

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Mike Pompeo speaking in Budapest, Hungary on February 11, 2019.
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Laszlo Balogh/Getty images

Source: The Washington Post