Robert S. Harward, the retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL who was President Trump’s top choice to replace his ousted national security adviser, on Thursday turned down the post in the latest setback for a White House already in turmoil.
“This job requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week focus and commitment to do it right,” Mr. Harward said in a statement. “I currently could not make that commitment.”
He added that since retiring from a 40-year military career, he now had “the opportunity to address financial and family issues that would have been challenging in this position.”
Two senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, confirmed that Mr. Harward cited family and financial considerations in turning down the post.
But his decision reflected the continuing upheaval in Mr. Trump’s White House, which was rocked this week by the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, quickly followed by the abrupt withdrawal of Andrew Puzder, his nominee for secretary of labor.
White House officials had scrambled to head off the refusal, asserting as late as Thursday evening that Mr. Harward, who is close to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, was still in the running to become Mr. Trump’s national security adviser.
Current and former national security officials familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment, said Mr. Harward had harbored strong reservations from the beginning about taking the post because of Mr. Trump’s unpredictable style and the level of chaos that has engulfed his White House. Those were only underscored this week in the politically charged aftermath of Mr. Flynn’s ouster, despite the attempts of Mr. Trump’s inner circle to allay his concerns.