U.S. President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser reportedly has turned down the job.
The Financial Times, citing two unidentified sources familiar with the situation, reported Thursday retired Navy special forces officer Robert Harward turned down the position because of “obvious dysfunctionality” in the White House and concerns about whether he would be able to hire his own staff.
The Times said Trump has asked Harward for a second meeting to try to change his mind.
Harward is reported close to Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Flynn resigned Monday night amid allegations surrounding his pre-inauguration contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during which the two reportedly discussed the sanctions against Moscow and whether the new administration would lift them.
During his news conference Thursday, Trump blamed the media for Flynn’s downfall, calling the whole controversy “fake news put out by the media.”
He said firing Flynn was made easier because he had an “outstanding” candidate in mind.
“Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. … He didn’t have to do that because what he did wasn’t wrong. … What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally. That’s the real problem,” Trump said.
Trump deflected a question about what evidence has convinced him Flynn committed no wrongdoing, just merely misled Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump flatly denied directing Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador about the sanctions imposed for the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and its election meddling.
“No I didn’t,” Trump said.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called for an investigation into whether the Trump campaign was in contact with Russian officials as well as Russia’s interference in the election process. The FBI also is investigating.
Harward is a senior executive at Lockheed Martin and served on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. In the military, he rose to deputy commander at Central Command, reporting to Mattis.
Foreign Policy said Harward thinks for himself and is not an ideologue.
Also under consideration for the job is former CIA chief David Petraeus, who was ousted after sharing secrets with his biographer and mistress. Keith Kellogg, who is serving as acting national security adviser, also is reported in the running.