The White House is speaking with several people following Michael Flynn's resignation as national security adviser, but meanwhile, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg Jr., who is serving acting director remains in play, after retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward declined the job, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Friday.
"[He's] a four-star general, and he's extraordinarily talented," Priebus told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" about Kellogg. "He's been on the team. He's also been the chief of staff for the NSC (National Security Council). But he's doing the job right now. Just to be clear, it's not vacant. Kellogg is doing the job, and he's an extraordinary man."
Harward had been told that the White House was very interested in speaking with him, said Priebus, but he had said he needed to speak with his wife and family before making the decision to accept the position as national security adviser.
"He called us and said 'guess what? I've got some support in the family, but others aren't that excited about it,'" said Priebus. "He then told us that it was something that his family couldn't go for. But he was honored to be talked to, and it wasn't going to happen."
The conversations were happening with Harward, though, "based on a contingency that his family would sign off going further, and his family didn't sign off. That's all it is," said Priebus."
However, other reports on Friday indicated Harward stepped away because he and the Trump administration did not agree that Harward should bring in his own team for the office.
Sources close to the discussions told CBS' Major Garrett that Trump had told Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland she could keep her job after Flynn resigned, but Harward, a 60-year-old ex-Navy SEAL, refused to keep her and wanted to bring in his own deputy.
Harward has previously served as deputy commanding general for operations of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command under now-Defense Secretary James Mattis, reports CBS.
He also served under former President George W. Bush as director of strategy and policy for the office of combating terrorism, and commanded troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan for six years after the 9/11 attacks.
Meanwhile, during his press conference on Thursday, President Donald Trump told reporters that his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine," and Priebus "happens to be doing a good job, but half of his job is putting out lies by the press."
Priebus said the administration is working on healthcare, tax reform and other key agenda items, but over the past few days, stories have dominated cable news that were "totally fake."
"One, The Wall Street Journal article that said that the Intel communities are withholding information from the president," said Priebus. "You know, okay. So what do you do? It's totally fake. It's totally false."
Priebus said there were statements from both the director of National Intelligence and the CIA refuting the story, and that article and another one in The New York Times claiming the Trump campaign had contact with Russian officials during the campaign were fake.
"[Rep] Devin Nunes, R-Calif., today in The Wall Street Journal, who was briefed on the issue went on the record saying that he hasn't seen a single bit of evidence that there had been constant contacts from the Trump campaign with Russian officials," said Priebus.
Nobody knows where the leaks are coming from that are leading to such stories, Priebus said, but "there may be some bad actors within the intelligence community" or some holdovers from President Barack Obama's former administration.
"I have talked to the highest levels of intelligence officials, and they have assured me that The New York Times story about constant contacts is grossly overstated and inaccurate," said Priebus, who insisted he was "green-lighted" to tell the media what he'd been told.
"I wouldn't come on your show and say something like that if I didn't have a green light and approval to say it," said Priebus. "It's not true. Unless the highest levels of the intelligence community don't know what they're talking about, which I highly doubt."
Priebus chaired the Republican National Committee during the Trump campaign and said he does not represent it, "but what really is true, and what I think the president's getting at is if you look at his schedule, you look at just yesterday, we had a press conference, we had a meeting with congressional leaders, we had foreign leader calls, we had all kinds of events. And every day it's like that."
Such meetings and bill signings "don't happen by accident," said Priebus. "They happen because a lot of people are working very hard. But when you have to spend half your day putting out phony stories, obviously it becomes a distraction."
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