The White House would not allow retired Adm. Robert Harward have complete control over his staff as national security adviser if he assumed the position, similar to its demands of Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Harward was particularly concerned that former Fox News host K.T. McFarland would remain on as his deputy, something he did not want. Harward wanted autonomous control over his staff, along with a guarantee from the White House that political aides would not involve themselves in the national security decision process. The White House denied these requests, and Harward rejected Trump’s offer Thursday.
The retired admiral was a highly qualified candidate who served in the Bush administration’s National Security Council (NSC) and as deputy to Secretary of Defense General Mattis at United States Central Command. His rejection leaves retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg as the continuing interim national security adviser while the search continues.
The showdown is similar to past staffing disputes between the White House and Mattis. White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Mattis both vehemently disagreed over who should assume the role of undersecretary of defense for policy. The role is critical to the daily functions of the Pentagon. Mattis reportedly wants to fill the job with Bush pentagon veteran Mary Beth Long, while the White House wants Trump pentagon transition staffer Mira Ricardel to hold the job.
The White House’s chief objection to Long centers on her signature on an infamous “Never Trump” letter in March of 2016.
“We are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency,” the letter flatly declared. “As committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a Party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head. We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office,” the letter continued.
The post remains unfilled, along with several other high level Pentagon positions that the White House insists on having a say in.
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