The retired admiral whom President Donald Trump wanted to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser turned down the job, he said Thursday. The Financial Times first reported the news.
Trump offered the position to retired Adm. Robert Harward on Monday, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy. At the time, the former Navy SEAL commander told the president he’d need some time to “think it over.”
“It’s purely a personal issue,” Harward told the Associated Press on Thursday evening. “I’m in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper reported on Twitter that a friend of Harward said Harward was reluctant to take the job since the Trump White House seemed so chaotic and called the offer a “s— sandwich.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two administration officials confirmed to The Washington Post that Harward was at the top of Trump’s three-person short list to replace Flynn, who abruptly resigned from the role after it became public that he had discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn reportedly urged the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, not to overreact to the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, indicating that incoming administration might be more inclined to roll them back.
Harward, who rose to deputy commander of US Central Command before retiring in 2013, wanted to bring in his own staff for an overhaul of the National Security Council, according to Ricks.
One of FT’s sources said Harward was concerned about whether he could carry out such a “housecleaning” of NSC workers, many of whom were loyal to Flynn.
As national security adviser, Harward would have had a close ally in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whom he served under at Central Command. He also has NSC experience, having served on the council during the George W. Bush administration.
Retired Army Gen. Keith Kellogg is serving as acting national security adviser. Trump tweeted Friday morning that Kellogg was “very much in play for NSA — as are three others.”