Donald Trump's pick for national security adviser turns down job

Vice-Admiral Robert Harward says decision was 'purely a personal issue'

Lizzie Dearden
New York
,Justin Carissimo
Friday 17 February 2017 02:33 GMT
Vice Admiral Robert S Harward visits Zaranj, Afghanistan on January 6, 2011.
Vice Admiral Robert S Harward visits Zaranj, Afghanistan on January 6, 2011. (Shawn Coolman/US Marines via Reuters)

Donald Trump’s choice for national security adviser has rejected the post days after Michael Flynn was forced to resign.

Vice-Admiral Robert Harward said the decision was “purely a personal issue” but his refusal was another blow for the White House after a series of policy U-turns and calls for investigations into alleged Russian links.

“Harward is conflicted between the call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality,” a person with first-hand knowledge of the discussions between the President and his candidate told the Financial Times.

Donald Trump is questioned over whether he ordered General Flynn to discuss sanctions with Russia

A friend of Vice-Admiral Harward's told CNN he described the President's offer as a “s*** sandwich”.

A reported stumbling block in negotiations was Vice-Admiral Harward’s concern whether he would be allowed to bring his own staff to the National Security Council, following suggestions that Mr Flynn’s deputy KT McFarland, a former Fox News pundit, was asked to remain.

The President denied “chaos” had beset his administration on Thursday, telling reporters it was “running like a fine-tuned machine”.

But critics have seized on Vice-Admiral Harward’s refusal to replace Mr Flynn as a vote of no confidence in Mr Trump amid uncertainty about his positions on key issues including the Syrian war, Ukrainian conflict and Russia.

The President personally asked the retired navy special forces officer to succeed Mr Flynn, telling a press conference ousting his former ally had been made easier by the fact he had an “outstanding” candidate to serve as a replacement.

But he publicly declined the offer hours later, telling the Associated Press it was “purely a personal issue”.

Vice-Admiral Harward said Trump administration was “very accommodating to my needs, both professionally and personally”, adding: ”I'm in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time.“

Asked whether he had requested to bring in his own staff at the National Security Council (NSC), he said: “I think that's for the President to address.”

He served as deputy commander of US Central Command under General James Mattis, who is now the US defence secretary, and served on the NSC under President George W Bush and commissioned the National Counter Terrorism Center.

After retiring from the military in 2013 after a career stretching almost 40 years, Vice-Admiral Harward became CEO for arms firm Lockheed Martin, which is locked in negotiations with the Trump administration over the cost of its F-35 fighter jet.

Two other contenders have been tipped as possibilities to take the role - acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg and retired General David Petraeus.

He resigned as CIA director in 2012 and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanour charge of mishandling classified information relating to documents he had provided to his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. He was fined $100,000 (£80,000) and remains on probation.

Mr Flynn was forced to resign following revelations he gave “incomplete information” to the Vice President over his discussions with the Russian ambassador during the transition period.

“The thing is, he didn't tell our Vice President properly, and then he said he didn't remember,” Mr Trump told reporters. “So either way, it wasn't very satisfactory to me".

Additional reporting by agencies

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