Mike Flynn’s resignation Monday from the national security adviser position opens an opportunity for Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s close colleague to take the post.
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward is reportedly the favorite among three potential Flynn replacements. Harward served as deputy to then-Gen. Mattis during his tenure as the head of United States Central Command and is a known Mattis ally. A former Navy SEAL, Harward reportedly was under consideration to serve as undersecretary of defense for intelligence under Mattis.
Vice President Mike Pence has been leading discussions on Flynn’s replacement, according to a Washington Post report. Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, CIA director Mike Pompeo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are also involved in the discussions.
Mattis and Flynn have a less-than-friendly history. One month after Mattis took charge of United States Central Command in 2010, then-Gen. Flynn was recalled from Afghanistan while the Army investigated allegations he “inappropriately” shared secrets with “various foreign military officers and/or officials in Afghanistan.”
The former generals also had divergent views on policy issues, specifically Russia. Flynn has historically maintained a cordial approach on Russian relations, while Mattis once claimed Russia was the “most dangerous” threat in the near term, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as “delusional.”
Harward offers the Trump administration a safe and steady pick following the fallout from Flynn’s resignation, two White House officials told the Washington Post.
The former admiral served on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council, specializing in counter-terrorism strategy, and is highly respected among security circles, despite maintaining a low public profile. As far as Mattis is concerned, Harward could be another ally in the White House on top security concerns like Iran and Russia.
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