U.S. President Donald Trump says he is choosing among four candidates for his upcoming appointment of a new national security adviser to replace retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who resigned under pressure this week.
Another candidate who was expected to be named as Flynn's successor — a recently retired senior naval officer — withdrew his name from consideration Thursday, forcing the president to widen the field of potential appointees.
“General Keith Kellogg, who I have known for a long time, is very much in play for [national security adviser], as are three others,” Trump disclosed on Twitter Friday. He did not name the other candidates, but White House officials previously said former CIA chief David Petraeus, a retired four-star general, was among those under consideration.
Then-Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward, commanding officer of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, speaks to an Afghan official during his visit to Zaranj, Afghanistan, Jan 6, 2011.
Kellogg travels with Trump
Kellogg, a 72-year-old retired lieutenant general, is currently chief of staff of the National Security Council at the White House, and the acting head of the group following Flynn's departure. He accompanied the president on his trip to South Carolina and Florida on Friday.
Before last year's election, Kellogg worked for Trump's campaign organization as a foreign policy adviser.
Retired Navy Admiral Robert Harward turned down the post of national security adviser late Thursday, telling reporters who contacted him he could not balance family and financial obligations with the 24-hour-a-day commitment the White House job would require. However, several U.S. media outlets reported another factor in Harward's decision was the lack of a guarantee that he could select his own staff at the NSC, or replace Flynn's choices.
Former CIA director David Petraeus speaks to the media after a meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, Nov. 28, 2016.
Flynn misled vice president
Flynn left his post this week in a controversy over his contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office, including a telephone conversation he had with Moscow's ambassador to Washington in December, while President Barack Obama was still in office, just before the United States expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and intelligence officers from the country.
Trump said Thursday that he did not believe Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador were improper, even if they did center on the incoming administration's views on continuing sanctions against Russia. The president said he let Flynn go because the security adviser had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russians, and Pence subsequently repeated a false account of Flynn's activities.
Petraeus, who has been under consideration for several senior posts in the Trump administration, held a series of high-profile military posts before taking over the Central Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration. Petraeus resigned as CIA director in 2012 and pleaded guilty in court to mishandling classified materials — secret documents that he had passed to a younger woman writing his biography, and with whom he was romantically involved.