It has been a day of turmoil for President Trump, who after finding himself on the defensive following Monday’s resignation by Mike Flynn (which may or may not lead to legal charges) and allegedly getting snubbed by Vladimir Putin, now has another potential crisis on his hands: according to both the FT and CBS, Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor, Robert Harward – Lockheed Martin’s CEO for the UAE – has turned down the President’s offer, citing “obvious dysfunctionality” in the administration.
According to the FT, it is not yet a complete rejection as “Trump is trying to convince his preferred candidate to succeed Michael Flynn as national security adviser to change his mind after the retired admiral tapped for the role told the US president that he could not accept the White House position.”
Mr Trump asked Robert Harward, a retired navy special forces officer to succeed Mr Flynn, who was fired as national security adviser on Monday. At a press conference on Thursday, he said his decision to replace Mr Flynn had been made easier because he had an “outstanding” candidate to serve as a replacement.
But Mr Harward is said to have turned Mr Trump down. “Harward is conflicted between the call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality,” said one person with first hand knowledge of the discussions between Mr Trump and Mr Harward. The second person said Mr Trump had asked Mr Harward to return to the White House for another meeting to try to change his mind.
As the FT adds, “one of the people familiar with Mr Harward’s decision said he was concerned about whether the top advisers around Mr Trump would allow him to install his own staff on the NSC — particularly after suggestions that KT McFarland, Mr Flynn’s deputy, had been asked to remain. When he was offered the position, Mr Harward had told Mr Trump that he wanted some time to think over the idea.”
A separate report by CBS gives the courting process more closure, stating that “Robert Harward turns down Trump’s offer to be new national security adviser.”
Vice Admiral Robert Harward has rejected President Trump’s offer to be the new national security adviser, CBS News’ Major Garrett reports.
Sources close to the situation told Garrett Harward and the administration had a dispute over over staffing the security council.
Two sources close to the situation confirm Harward Harward demanded his own team, and the White House resisted. Specifically, Mr. Trump told Deputy National Security Adviser K. T. McFarland that she could retain her post, even after the ouster of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Harward refused to keep McFarland as his deputy, and after a day of negotiations over this and other staffing matters, Harward declined to serve as Flynn’s replacement.
Should Harward’s position remain unchanged, it would mean that Trump may have no choice but to turn to David Petraeus:
One of the other contenders for the job was David Petraeus, a retired general who was widely respected, but fell from grace during his time as head of the Central Intelligence Agency for passing secret information to his mistress. The final candidate was Keith Kellogg, a retired army general who had served as chief of staff to Mr Flynn on the NSC and who is serving as the interim head of the inter-agency body.
While it remains to be seen if Harward is indeed out, it is troubling if suddenly Trump can not even find willing and qualified candidates to fill the gaping holes among his top security advisors.