Trump's top pick for national security adviser rejects job

Mr Trump's choice of Mr Pruitt (above, left) to head EPA is controversial, while his choice of Mr Acosta (above, right) for secretary of labour is seen as safe.
Retired vice-admiral and former navy seal Robert Harward (above, in army fatigues), on why he turned down the role of national security adviser.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Trump's choice of Mr Pruitt (above, left) to head EPA is controversial, while his choice of Mr Acosta (above, right) for secretary of labour is seen as safe.
Mr Trump's choice of Mr Pruitt (above) to head EPA is controversial, while his choice of Mr Acosta for secretary of labour is seen as safe.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Trump's choice of Mr Pruitt (above, left) to head EPA is controversial, while his choice of Mr Acosta (above, right) for secretary of labour is seen as safe.
Mr Trump's choice of Mr Pruitt to head EPA is controversial, while his choice of Mr Acosta (above) for secretary of labour is seen as safe.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ex-admiral Robert Harward cites family and financial reasons

WASHINGTON • Mr Robert Harward, the retired vice-admiral and former Navy Seal who was President Donald Trump's top choice to replace his ousted national security adviser (NSA), has 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," Mr 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, confirmed that Mr Harward cited family and financial considerations in turning down the post.

But his decision reflected the continuing upheaval in Mr Trump's White House, which was rocked this week by the resignation of Mr Michael Flynn, the national security adviser, quickly followed by the abrupt withdrawal of Mr Andrew Puzder, his nominee for secretary of labour.

Current and former national security officials familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr Harward, a top Lockheed Martin executive, had harboured strong reservations from the beginning about taking the post.

Yesterday, Mr Trump said he was considering four people to serve as national security adviser, including retired general Keith Kellogg. "General Keith Kellogg, who I have known for a long time, is very much in play for NSA - as are three others," Mr Trump said in a tweet.

TOTAL COMMITMENT NEEDED

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

RETIRED VICE-ADMIRAL AND FORMER NAVY SEAL ROBERT HARWARD on why he turned down the role of national security adviser.

While he considers the new candidates, he also sought to put the embarrassment of Mr Puzder's withdrawal behind him by nominating a new secretary of labour. He chose Mr Alexander Acosta, a Florida law school dean and former assistant attorney-general, who is regarded as a safe choice.

In Mr Acosta, Mr Trump has chosen a nominee with deep experience in labour relations, law and education. The pick answers concerns about the lack of diversity in the Trump administration, in that Mr Acosta would be the first Hispanic in the President's Cabinet.

His chances of being confirmed appear relatively high. Mr Acosta, currently the dean of Florida International University's law school, has made it through the Senate process three times for different roles.

Mr Trump's controversial choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faces his Senate confirmation hearing today (2am Singapore time) and is expected to be approved.

Oklahoma Attorney-General Scott Pruitt has faced objections from Democrats and green groups who are worried he will gut the agency, as the administration readies executive orders to ease regulation on drillers and miners.

Underscoring the concern, EPA employees have been calling their senators to urge them to vote against Mr Pruitt's confirmation.

Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in EPA offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear Mr Pruitt will run an agency he has made a career out of fighting. Mr Trump has also vowed to "get rid of" it.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's top pick for national security adviser rejects job'. Print Edition | Subscribe