According to the Financial Times and CBS, on Thursday, ex-Navy SEAL Robert Harward declined President Trump's National Security Advisor offer. Trump had been expected to name Harward as the replacement for Michael Flynn, who resigned as National Security Advisor earlier in the week, but Harward reportedly turned down the offer.
A source told the Financial Times that Harward was "conflicted between the call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality" of Trump's White House. According to CBS, Harward made his decision in part because Trump wouldn't allow him to choose his own deputy National Security Advisor, instead insisting that Flynn's number two, K.T. McFarland, stay in the position. The New York Times had reported that McFarland was expected leave her position in the White House.
Flynn stepped down from his post after a series of revelations surrounding conversations he had with the Russian ambassador prior to Trump's inauguration. It was reported Wednesday that Harward, now an executive at Lockheed Martin, had been offered the job, and at a press conference Thursday, Trump boasted that he had found an "outstanding" replacement for Flynn.
But Harward has rejected Trump's offer, CBS confirmed on Thursday, although the president has reportedly asked him to return to the White House in an attempt to change his mind.
Think about it: Harward is a former Navy Seal. And he felt the WH was too big a mess to take on. https://t.co/6kwxZF8RMD— David Rothkopf (@djrothkopf) February 16, 2017
Harward was one of three names believed to be in contention for the job, alongside former CIA Director David Petraeus and retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who is currently the acting National Security Advisor. One report alleged that Trump is also considering Stephen Hadley, who served as National Security Advisor under George W. Bush, for the role.
Kellogg advised Trump on policy during the campaign, and was one of the original contender's for the job ultimately given to Flynn. Hadley is a former Navy officer and Defense Department analyst, and served on the National Security Administration during Gerald Ford's presidency. Petraeus has held several top military posts and is generally respected by Republicans and Democrats alike; however, appointing him as the top advisor on national security matters would likely draw controversy, due to the the fact that he pled guilty to mishandling classified information in 2015.
Harward's decision is only the latest setback for Trump in a week full of setbacks. In addition to the growing controversy surrounding Flynn's actions, Trump's pick to serve as Labor Secretary, Andy Puzder, withdrew his nomination on Wednesday when it became apparent that the Senate wouldn't confirm him. The next day, six White House staffers were reportedly dismissed after failing to pass background checks. Around the same time, ten members of the president's commission on Asian-Americans resigned in protest, explaining in a letter that they objected to Trump's "portrayal of immigrants, refugees, people of color and people of various faiths as untrustworthy, threatening, and a drain on our nation." Nevertheless, Trump declared Thursday that his White House was "running like a fine-tuned machine."