Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward declined President Trump’s offer to become National Security Adviser on Thursday.
“Since retiring, I have the opportunity to address financial and family issues that would have been challenging in this position. Like all service members understand, and live, this job requires 24 hours a day, 7 days a week focus and commitment to do it right. I currently could not make that commitment. My thoughts and prayers are with those that carry such heavy burdens and responsibility for taking care of our country’s national security concerns. God bless this great country of ours,” Harward said in a statement quoted by CNN.
Appearing on Fox & Friends Friday morning, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus denied the White House was caught “flat-footed” by Harward’s refusal.
“What we told Admiral Harward was that we were very interested in talking to him, and we’re very interested and very serious in his position at the NSA,” Priebus said. “And he responded and said, ‘Well, let me talk to my wife and family, we’ll get back to you.’ Then we kept in constant contact with him. He called us and said, ‘Guess what? I got some support in the family but others aren’t that excited about it.’ And he then told us that it was something his family couldn’t go for, but he was honored to be talked to, and it wasn’t going to happen. It’s a reasonable thing.”
“The conversations were happening based on a contingency that his family would sign off on him going further, and the family didn’t sign off. That’s all it is,” Priebus insisted
Of course, the rumor mill began churning as soon as Harward declined the job. CNN quotes a friend of Harward’s who said he referred to the job as a “s**t sandwich” and felt the Trump White House was too “chaotic.”
Other sources said Harward was concerned about staffing and questions of “clarity regarding the lines of authority,” as a “senior Republican familiar with the process” told CNN.
CBS News cites “two sources close to the situation” who said 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,” CBS elaborates.
ABC News quotes Harward denying he turned down the offer because of “chaos in the West Wing.”
Harward is currently an executive with Lockheed Martin. Widely considered the top choice for the National Security Adviser post before he declined the offer, he lists the Navy SEALs, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, deputy commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, deputy commander of Special Operations Command, and the National Security Council on his resume.
He parachuted into his 2013 retirement ceremony with a huge American flag fluttering behind him, wearing his neatly-pressed dress uniform beneath his jumpsuit:
Some more highlights from his background, courtesy of ABC News:
He holds a master’s degree in international relations and strategic security affairs, served as a federal executive fellow at the Rand Corp. and completed the Center for International Studies’ foreign policy program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to the biography.
Harward was awarded the Distinguished Graduate Leadership Award in 2013 by the U.S. Naval War College for his prominence in the field of national security. In 2012 he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for individuals “whose accomplishments in their field and inspired service to our nation are cause for celebration,” according to the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, which sponsors the award.
Harward is very highly regarded in the Tampa Bay military community, dating back to his service with U.S. Central Command. Another reason he was a top candidate for National Security Adviser was his long relationship with the current Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, who once complimented him as “brilliant (for a SEAL)” in an email.