New aide of US Vice-President Pence steps down two days after being appointed after Trump outburst

US President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence‬ attending a working lunch at the White House on March 20, 2018.
US President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence‬ attending a working lunch at the White House on March 20, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A new national security aide to US Vice-President Mike Pence stepped down on Sunday (April 15), only two days after being officially named to the job, after a behind-the-scenes White House argument hit the headlines, a White House official said.

The appointment of Mr Jon Lerner to Mr Pence's team was one of the more short-lived personnel moves in a White House known for turbulent staff turnover and infighting, and the first to envelope the vice-president, who works hard to stay out of the drama.

Mr Pence's office had announced on Friday that Mr Jon Lerner, a senior aide to United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, would become Mr Pence's top adviser on foreign policy issues.

By Sunday night, the vice-president's office had issued a second statement that Mr Lerner had withdrawn.

The issue boiled over on Friday, when Mr Pence and his senior staff were on an eight-hour flight to Peru to attend the Summit of the Americas.

President Donald Trump had become upset, the White House official said, when he was told in error that Mr Lerner was a so-called "Never Trumper" - a term that describes anti-Trump Republicans.

Mr Lerner had backed Republican Senator Marco Rubio during the primary race to pick the party's candidate ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Pence phoned Mr Trump and cleared up the tension, the official said. But the short-lived drama became public on Sunday in a report by Axios which said that Mr Trump had initially told his chief of staff John Kelly to axe the appointment and questioned why Mr Pence would have made the pick.

Mr Lerner then offered to withdraw on Sunday night "to minimise the amount of conflict and internal drama", the White House official said, and Mr Pence decided it was the best option.

Mr Lerner will continue working for Ms Haley, the official said.