In blow to Trump, Harward turns down US national security advisor role

Harward, the retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL who was President Donald Trump's top choice as national security advisor, has turned down the post.

Mr Harward also served from 2011 until his 2013 retirement as deputy commander of the US Central Command (Centcom), based in the city of Tampa, in Florida. In the administration of George W. Bush, Harward had a stint at the counterterrorism office of the National Security Council.

After more three decades in the military, Harward is now the chief executive of the United Arab Emirates unit of defense contractor, Lockheed Martin.

"General Keith Kellogg, who I have known for a long time, is very much in play for NSA - as are three others", Trump tweeted.

President Trump is considering reaching back into a pool of retired military generals to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser. Harward reportedly characterized the job offer as a "s**t sandwich".

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Flynn resigned on Monday, following a Washington Post report that revealed he had spoken with the Russian ambassador to the US about American sanctions prior to Trump's inauguration, despite repeated assurances by administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, that he hadn't done so.

The official who spoke anonymously to the Associated Press because Harward's decision had not been publicly announced.

Another senior USA official quoted by the Post said Harward had "family considerations" and was concerned about the financial implications of leaving his job at Lockheed Martin.

Specifically, 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. Various sources said Thursday that after consideration, Harward made a decision to pass on the job.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Asked if there was a candidate for national security adviser in sight, a White House official told CNN, "Not that I'm aware of".

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Harward confirmed in a statement released Thursday night that he turned down the job.

The latest setback of being rebuffed by Mr Harward will only fuel claims from opponents that Mr Trump's presidency has gone off the rails.

He was fined $100,000 (£80,000) and remains on probation.

USA officials also said this week that there were two other contenders for the post - acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg and retired General David Petraeus.

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