Robert Harward, a former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, has turned down President Trump's offer to become the next national security adviser, he told The Associated Press Thursday.
“It’s purely a personal issue,” the retired vice admiral told AP. “I’m in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time.”
Harward had been widely reported as the favorite to replace former general Michael Flynn, who resigned Monday after misleading Vice President Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Trump asked the retired Navy SEAL, 60, to take the position, but he turned it down over concerns that he would not have full say over the composition of his staff, CBS and The Financial Times reported, citing unnamed sources.
According to CBS, Trump insisted that Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland be allowed to stay on, and Harward refused to retain the former Fox News analyst and Flynn hire.
Harward, currently a senior executive at Lockheed Martin, also cited the apparent lack of organization within the Trump White House, FT reported.
“Harward is conflicted between the call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality,” FT quoted the unidentified person as saying.
Another source told The Financial Times that Trump is still working to persuade Harward to take the position. He asked for him to return to the White House for another meeting, according to FT.
Former lieutenant general Keith Kellogg took over as the acting national security adviser after Flynn's resignation. Retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus is reported to be another top candidate for the position.