Vice Admiral Robert Harward has turned down an offer to be President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, in yet another blow to a new administration struggling to find its footing.
Harward, a former navy chief now living in Abu Dhabi as an executive of defence firm Lockheed Martin, is reported to have been denied his request to bring on board his own team.
He said on Thursday evening: “It’s purely a personal issue.”
“I’m in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time,” he added.
Harward told The Associated Press that the Trump administration was “very accommodating to my needs, both professionally and personally”.
Asked whether he had requested to bring in his own staff at the National Security Council, Harward said, “I think that’s for the president to address”.
Following the resignation of Michael Flynn, administration officials said his deputy, KT McFarland, was staying on at the NSC. McFarland is a former Fox News analyst.
Harward would have replaced Flynn, who resigned at Trump’s request Monday after revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US during the transition.
Trump said in a news conference Thursday that he was disappointed by how Flynn had treated Pence, but did not believe the retired general had done anything wrong by having the conversations.
It is illegal for a civilian to engage in diplomacy with states in dispute with the US.
Harward, a former Navy Seal, served as deputy commander of US Central Command under General James Mattis, who is now defence secretary.
He also served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush and commissioned the National Counter Terrorism Centre.
Officials said earlier this week that there were two other contenders in the running for the job: acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg and David Petraeus.
Petraeus, a retired four-star general, resigned as CIA director in 2012 and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanour charge of mishandling classified information relating to documents he had provided to his biographer, with whom he was having an affair.
He was also fined $100,000 and remains on probation.