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Trump’s pick to replace Flynn turns down the job

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    Robert S. Harward, a retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL, turned down the post in the latest setback for a White House already in turmoil.

WASHINGTON >> Robert S. Harward, the retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL who was President Donald Trump’s top choice to replace his ousted national security adviser, on Thursday turned down the post in the latest setback for a White House already in turmoil.

“This job requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week focus and commitment to do it right,” Harward said in a statement. “I currently could not make that commitment.”

He added that since retiring from a 40-year military career, he now had “the opportunity to address financial and family issues that would have been challenging in this position.”

Two senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, confirmed that Harward cited family and financial considerations in turning down the post.

But his decision reflected the continuing upheaval in Trump’s White House, which was rocked this week by the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, quickly followed by the abrupt withdrawal of Andrew Puzder, his nominee for secretary of labor.

White House officials had scrambled to head off the refusal, asserting as late as Thursday evening that Harward, who is close to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, was still in the running to become Trump’s national security adviser.

Current and former national security officials familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment, said Harward had harbored strong reservations from the beginning about taking the post because of Trump’s unpredictable style and the level of chaos that has engulfed his White House. Those were only underscored this week in the politically charged aftermath of Flynn’s ouster, despite the attempts of Trump’s inner circle to allay his concerns.

Trump suggested earlier Thursday that he had demanded Flynn’s resignation on Monday partly because of enthusiasm about an unnamed person he had in mind to replace him. The president had known since last month that Flynn had misrepresented conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States, before Trump was inaugurated, about American sanctions on Moscow.

“I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position,” Trump said at a news conference Thursday. “And that also helps, I think, in the making of my decision.”

But by then Harward, who is a top executive at Lockheed Martin, the weapons and aerospace company, had decided he was not willing to take the post. He wrote to Trump and Mattis conveying his decision, two of the officials said.

Trump’s National Security Council has become embroiled in political controversy. In an executive order last month — which Trump later complained privately that he had not been fully briefed on — the president placed Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, on its principals committee, giving a political adviser a position of parity with the secretaries of state and defense, and with the national security adviser.

Two former national security officials who have worked closely with Harward said he would have been unlikely to take the position without assurances from Trump that he could run the NSC free of intervention by political advisers. They also spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter.

Harward’s withdrawal from consideration prompted David H. Petraeus, the former general and director of the CIA, to step up his lobbying for the national security adviser post, which he badly wants, according to officials familiar with the process.

Petraeus was forced to resign from the CIA in 2012 after admitting that he had an extramarital affair. In 2015, he was sentenced to two years’ probation for providing classified information to the woman with whom he was having the affair and fined $100,000.

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  • HAHAHAHA!!!! There goes the BETTER than the first choice Mr. Second Choice, who Trumpers said was going to be better than the original Mr. First Choice, now we are in for a real treat, the BEST candidate for the job that Trump strategically put as his 3rd choice…#MAGA

    • Trump refused Harward’s choice for the Deputy National Security Advisor, and instead insisted on keeping the Trump choice (K.T. McFarland) in that job. Hard to be disrespected like that before even taking the job.

      No one with a functioning brain would take that job under those conditions.

      Trump is a psychotic. He validates that fact every single day.

  • Trump has never run anything other than his own business which is wholly owned by himself and his family. He does not have experience in running or working in a large public corporation traded daily on a stock exchange and reporting to a board of directors and shareholders– if he ran a company like he has run the White House he would be fired by now. His advisors have never run a large public company either. He needs to find someone with experience like Tillerson to help him.

  • Are we expected to believe that Harward forgot that he had a family, allowed his name to be unofficially announced, and then, the next day, remembered that he had a family and withdrew from the job? This story just doesn’t make sense. The real problem is K.T. Mcfarland, a Fox News personality whom Harward would have had to accept as his deputy. Mcfarland hasn’t worked in government since the Reagan administration and is said to be regarded as grossly unqualified by national security experts. This is just the most recent example of Trump’s chaotic management style. He puts people in charge of a department and then places his loyalists in secondary positions so that they can monitor or even undercut the person who is nominally in charge. A similar fiasco happened when Trump appointed a billionaire friend to be Secretary of the Army before he chose a Secretary of Defense. Although Trump’s choice said he withdrew because he couldn’t untangle his business affairs (as if that made any difference to Trump’s other billionaire appointees), there was no way that Mattis would allow someone who would report directly to him to have greater loyalty to Trump. Generals (Flynn excepted) know about the chain of command and how to manage massive organizations. Trump’s inability to create a rational organizational structure is compounded by the evil presence of Steve Bannon, who is the de facto President in ways that even Dick Cheney never achieved.

    Or perhaps Harward watched Trump’s press conference and decided he didn’t want to join the circus after all.

  • Jake Tapper tweeted, “A friend of Harward’s says he was reluctant to take NSA job [because] the WH seems so chaotic; says Harward called the offer a ‘s––– sandwich.’ ”

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