Steve Bannon's presence on the National Security Council was reportedly part of the reason why Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward turned down an offer to replace Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor — lending credence to Nancy Pelosi's astute assessment of Bannon as the "shadow National Security Advisor."
Following Michael Flynn’s resignation from his very brief stint as National Security Advisor, Donald Trump offered the position to retired Vice Admiral and former Navy SEAL Robert Harward. But Harward turned down the job, reportedly over concerns regarding instability in the White House and other staffing choices made by Trump.
CNN’s Jake Tapper flagged a particularly concise explanation of Harward’s misgivings:
A friend of Harward's says he was reluctant to take NSA job bc the WH seems so chaotic; says Harward called the offer a "shit sandwich."
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 17, 2017
As CBS News reports, Harward was also put off by the fact that he would not have full control over staffing decisions for the team which he would be leading:
Sources close to the situation told [CBS News White House Correspondent Major] Garrett Harward and the administration had a dispute over staffing the security council.
Two sources close to the situation confirm Harward demanded his own team, and the White House resisted.
Specifically, Mr. Trump told Deputy National Security Adviser K. T. McFarland that she could retain her post, even after the ouster of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Harward refused to keep McFarland as his deputy, and after a day of negotiations over this and other staffing matters, Harward declined to serve as Flynn’s replacement.
Politico further notes that Trump’s top strategist, former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, was a factor in Harward’s decision, as Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo highlighted:
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) February 17, 2017
The concerns over Bannon’s presence are particularly notable. Trump was apparently not even aware until after the fact that, via his own Presidential Memorandum, he had appointed Bannon to the council — a move which received condemnation from numerous voices.
And Bannon’s reported role in Harward’s refusal also bolsters House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s sharp commentary on the precise capacity in which Bannon is serving:
…my fear is, now we will have as a shadow National Security Advisor, Bannon, and his national security vision influencing all the agencies of government that I mentioned, as well as advising the president. So this is deadly, deadly serious, what’s happening now.
Pelosi has been unsparing in her criticism of Bannon, openly referring to him as a white supremacist, and now calling attention to the outsize power he has been given in this administration.
And she was not engaging in hyperbole, but rather a prescient and astute observation, as that power was reportedly enough to cause Harward to turn down a key job in the country’s national security apparatus.