White House denies seeking to hamstring NSA

Robert Harward, a retired vice admiral, turned down Trump’s offer of the NSA earlier in the week


Afp February 20, 2017
US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: A top aide denied on Sunday that President Donald Trump is having difficulty filling the key post of national security advisor because of White House moves to politicize the office.

Trump, at his Mar-a-Lago getaway in Florida, was set to interview four candidates to replace Mike Flynn, the retired general who was ousted as national security advisor for deceiving Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington.

Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus hit the Sunday television talk shows to push back at reports of disarray at the National Security Council, the president’s main forum for decision-making about issues of national security and foreign affairs.

On Fox News Sunday, he was asked whether Trump was insisting that his controversial chief political strategist Steve Bannon play a major role in the NSC, reportedly a source of concern to candidates for the national security advisor position.

“The answer to that is no,” Priebus said.

Trump’s search for a replacement has narrowed to acting national security advisor Keith Kellogg, a retired three star general; former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton; Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, an expert on counter-insurgency warfare; and Lieutenant General Robert Caslen, the superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point, the White House said.

Another leading candidate, retired general and former CIA chief David Petraeus, is no longer in the running.

The president told reporters on Saturday that he would make a decision over his new national security advisor “over the next couple of days.”

Retired General Jim Jones, who served as national security advisor under former president Barack Obama, said the post requires a strategic thinker who enjoys direct access to the president and the confidence of key cabinet members.

Robert Harward, a retired vice admiral, turned down Trump’s offer of the NSA earlier in the week, citing financial and family reasons.

Media reports said he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to bring in his own team to staff the NSC.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2017.

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