Business Insider Edition

Donald Trump’s new national security advisor reportedly came to SA to study apartheid – and speaks Afrikaans fluently

Business Insider SA
 Sep 22, 2019, 08:01 AM

This article has been updated below.

The new US national security adviser Robert C O'Brien.
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
  • US President Donald Trumps’ new national security advisor Robert C. O'Brien came to South Africa to study apartheid at the University of the Free State, Netwerk24 reported
  • During his time at UFS, he reportedly met his wife and learnt to speak Afrikaans fluently. 
  • O’Brien has previously been critical of Trump’s relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but praised Trump during his presidential term. 
  • Visit Business Insider SA's home page for more stories. 

US President Donald Trump’s new national security advisor Robert C. O'Brien reportedly studied apartheid at the University of the Free State in the 1980s, and can speak Afrikaans fluently. 

Trump appointed O’Brien, 53, on Wednesday after he abruptly fired John Bolton on September 10, claiming in a tweet that Bolton suggestions was strongly opposed by the Trump-administration.

The national security advisor –  the most senior advisor in the White House – works directly for the US President and is tasked with leading the US National Security Council. 

A quick look at O’Brien’s LinkedIn profile reveals that after he completed a BA Political science degree at the University of California, Los Angles (UCLA), he studied political science and government at the University of Free State (UFS) in 1987.

In 1991, he completed a law degree at the Berkeley school of law at UCLA.

Chemistry professor Karel von Eschwege, who became close friends with O’Brien while he was at UFS, said O’Brien came to study in South Africa after he was awarded a bursary to study anywhere in the world, Netwerk24 reported.

Von Eschwege claimed that O’Brien wanted to personally come to investigate “the most hated political system” in the world: apartheid.

In an interview with Afrikaner rights advocacy group Afriforum in 2017, O’Brien said he is able to speak Afrikaans fluently and that his South African wife imports magazines Huisgenoot and De Kat to the US to read.

O'Brien reportedly met his wife while he was studying at UFS. 

Trump said he appointed O'Brien after a successful term as Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the US State Department. 

O'Brien made headlines in July when Trump sent him to Sweden to help put pressure on the Swedish government amid rapper A$AP Rocky's trial on charges of assault, the Guardian reported

During 2016 Republican selections, he advised that US senator Ted Cruz attack then-candidate Donald Trump's seemingly cosy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, during Trump’s term as President he praised the “tremendous foreign-policy successes under President Trump’s leadership”, The New Yorker reported. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that O’Brien wanted to personally come to investigate the "highest quality" political system in the world: apartheid. Business Insider South Africa apologises for the error.

(compiled by James de Villiers) 

Receive a daily email with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa:

  • Indicators
  • JSE Indexes

Get the best of our site delivered to your inbox every day.

Sign Up