During a rambling press conference held Thursday, Donald Trump claimed to have an “outstanding” candidate in line to become National Security Adviser. This was a role made vacant on Monday, when Michael Flynn resigned over his contact with Russian officials. Just hours later, that “outstanding” candidate rejected the offer outright.
During an adversarial press conference where he frequently lambasted the media and claimed his administration was being run like a “finely tuned machine,” Trump was asked about a replacement for Flynn. “I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position,” he said, adding that the quality of his candidate had helped make the decision to ask for Flynn’s resignation easier.
Just hours after that press conference finished however, the candidate — 40-year military veteran Robert Harward — announced that he would not be taking up the position. “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.”
Translated version of Vice Admiral Harward's statement after turning down the National Security Advisor job pic.twitter.com/zjDwvv39MC
— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) February 17, 2017
While Harward said the decision was purely a personal one, sources within the White House — who Trump called criminals during his press conference — were quick to report that Harward may have had other misgivings about taking the job:
Harward’s decision to turn down the offer will only add to the troubles Trump and his team have faced this week. Following Flynn’s resignation on Monday, Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary Andrew Pudzer withdrew his nomination, and the administration is facing continuing allegations over its links to the Russian government during last year’s election campaign.
A friend of Harward's says he was reluctant to take NSA job bc the WH seems so chaotic; says Harward called the offer a "shit sandwich."
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 17, 2017
According to the New York Times, retired general David Petraeus has stepped up his campaign to be considered for the position. Complicating his nomination is the issue that the former director of the CIA is still serving a two year probation after being found guilty of passing classified information to his biographer. It is unlikely Petraeus would be able to get the necessary security clearances while he is on probation, a term due to end in April.
Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS