Donald Trump's Secretary of the Navy pick withdraws days after Sean Spicer said he wouldn't

Businessman feared 'undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family's private financial interests'

Ken Thomas
Monday 27 February 2017 15:16
President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump's choice to be secretary of the Navy, businessman Philip Bilden, has withdrawn himself from consideration for the post, citing concerns about privacy and separating himself from his business interests.

Mr Bilden's withdrawal raises similar issues to that of Vincent Viola, Mr Trump's nominee for Army secretary who stepped aside earlier this month. Just last week, the Pentagon sought to dismiss reports that Mr Bilden might pull out.

And White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted on 18 February that reports Mr Bilden was considering withdrawing were "wrong". He said the businessman was "100% committed" to taking on the role.

Mr Bilden was an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve from 1986 to 1996. He relocated to Hong Kong to set up an Asian presence for HarbourVest Partners LLC, a global private equity management firm. He recently retired from HarbourVest Partners after 25 years.

In a statement released on Sunday by the Pentagon, Mr Bilden said he determined that he would not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without what he called "undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family's private financial interests."

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement that he would make a recommendation to Mr Trump for a nominee in the coming days.

On 19 February, after press reports suggested Mr Bilden might drop out, the Pentagon issued a statement saying he had assured Mr Mattis he remained committed to serving as Navy secretary if confirmed by the Senate and that Mr Mattis was confident Mr Bilden was "the right leader" to rebuild the Navy and Marine Corps.

Mr Viola cited his inability to successfully navigate the confirmation process and Defence Department rules concerning family businesses.

A military veteran and former Airborne Ranger infantry officer, he was also the founder of several businesses, including the electronic trading firm Virtu Financial. He also owns the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers and is a past chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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