By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eric Schmitt
WASHINGTON – Robert S. Harward, the retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL who was President Donald Trump’s top choice to replace his ousted national security adviser, on Thursday 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,” 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 because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, confirmed that Harward cited family and financial considerations in turning down the post.
But his decision reflected the continuing upheaval in Trump’s White House, which was rocked this week by the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, quickly followed by the abrupt withdrawal of Andrew Puzder, his nominee for secretary of labor.
White House officials had scrambled to head off the refusal, asserting as late as Thursday evening that Harward, who is close to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, was still in the running to become Trump’s national security adviser.
Current and former national security officials familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment, said Harward had harbored strong reservations from the beginning about taking the post because of Trump’s unpredictable style and the level of chaos that has engulfed his White House.
Trump suggested earlier Thursday that he had demanded Flynn’s resignation on Monday partly because of enthusiasm about an unnamed person he had in mind to replace him.
“I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position,” Trump said at a news conference Thursday.
But by then Harward, who is a top executive at Lockheed Martin, had decided he was not willing to take the post. He wrote to Trump and Mattis conveying his decision, two of the officials said.
Harward’s withdrawal from consideration prompted David H. Petraeus, the former general and director of the CIA, to step up his lobbying for the national security adviser post, which he badly wants, according to officials familiar with the process.