Trump considering 4 for national security adviser after Robert Harward says no

President Donald Trump's list of candidates to take over as his national security adviser is at four, following Michael Flynn's resignation earlier this week and reports Trump's first pick for a replacement turned down the offer.

"General Keith Kellogg, who I have known for a long time, is very much in play for NSA – as are three others," Trump tweeted Friday morning, referring to the retired Army officer who became a close campaign adviser and was named chief of staff and executive secretary to the National Security Council in December. Kellogg currently is serving as acting national security adviser in the wake of Flynn's departure.

Among others reportedly under consideration is retired Gen. David Petraeus, the disgraced former CIA director and head of U.S. Central Command. Experts say Petraeus has the intellectual chops and professional experience to handle the position deftly, but would assume the job under a cloud. If picked, Petraeus would become the first national security adviser also on probation, as he continues to serve a two-year term in connection with sharing classified information with his biographer and mistress.

Trump reportedly first offered the job on Monday night to retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, a career Navy SEAL who asked for time to consider taking the position. During a wide-ranging press conference on Thursday, Trump said he had someone in mind to replace Flynn but would not offer any specifics.

Later on Thursday, Harward told The Associated Press he had turned down the job for personal reasons.

"I'm in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time," Harward said. The Trump administration was "very accommodating to my needs, both professionally and personally."

The New York Times, however, cited sources who said Harward had concerns about dysfunction within the White House, and was surprised by Trump telling Flynn ally K.T. MacFarland that she could remain as deputy national security adviser. The Washington Post also cited a person close to the issue as saying an element that weighed into Harward's decision was the lack of a guarantee that he would be able to select his own staff.

Notably, Harward's rejection of the job offer comes after White House strategist Steve Bannon was elevated to a position on the National Security Council's principals committee, sparking criticism over placing a political aide in a key national security role.

Other officials told the Post Harward had "financial concerns" about leaving his job as a senior executive at Lockheed Martin and was worried about the impact on his family.

The retired admiral was considered by many in Washington to be an excellent choice to replace Flynn, bringing experience in security affairs and close ties to other members of Trump's Cabinet to a position that has been the center of upheaval in the first month of the new administration.

Harward's name began circling as a replacement for Flynn almost immediately after the former Defense Intelligence Agency chief and Trump campaign confidant came under fire for mischaracterizing to White House colleagues, particularly Vice President Mike Pence, the nature of his contact with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Harward worked on the National Security Council during former President George W. Bush's administration, but perhaps chief among his relevant experience was his tenure from 2011 to 2013 as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command – the military headquarters overseeing all wars in the Middle East – during which he served as the No. 2 to Jim Mattis, now Trump's secretary of defense. Mattis reportedly held Harward in particularly high regard, assigning him to, among other responsibilities during that time, draft a plan for a potential war with Iran.

Harward, like Mattis, likely has a deep roster of close associates and former colleagues he would have called upon to work for him in a new position. And whoever succeeds Flynn will need experience like Harward's to be able to take on internal housekeeping issues that position will first have to address.

As national security adviser, managing a broad stream of intelligence and national security information and paring it down to inform decisions the president must make also is a difficult task fraught with the potential for disastrous real-world consequences.

"The national security adviser has to have the trust and confidence of both the president and of the national security bureaucracies, because the NSA is supposed to be the honest broker, the person who takes the views and prerogatives of the national security departments ... and forwards them to the president appropriately, often with the views of the NSA but not dictated by the NSA," says David Priess, a former CIA officer and author of "The President's Book of Secrets," which documents the history of the commander in chief's daily intelligence briefings.

Flynn made a mistake by coming into the position with very strong views on which he tried to influence the president, Priess says. That's not the traditional purpose of the job.

"Historically, people who have been exposed to the process before and seen how it works generally make the process work better," Priess says.

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