President Donald Trump met with four finalists on his list to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser on Sunday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and is expected to interview further candidates back in Washington D.C. on Monday.
Sunday's round of interviews included acting adviser and retired three-star Army Gen. Keith Kellogg, NPR reports, along with West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr.; Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, an Army strategist; and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that there may be "some some additional meetings and names on Monday," and that Trump "may also meet with a couple of those people again."
Trump told reporters Saturday that he does have a favorite contender, and that he's been meeting with that person, but all of the contenders are "great people."
The president's first choice, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, backed out. Officially, Harward cited family and financial reasons, but sources close to the situation have reported that he and another potential choice, former CIA Director David Petraeus, had both wanted control over the office's staffing.
Petraeus was cut from the short list of potential candidates after wanting more independence and control over his potential staff and the National Security Council, sources told The Wall Street Journal, but Trump reportedly considered that stance to be a deal-breaker.
Sunday, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus denied reports that staffing issues have been causing difficulty in filling Flynn's former post, calling The Wall Street Journal report and others "fake news" on the issue. That includes reports that Harward, for one, did not agree with Trump's decision to add White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council.
"The issue with Admiral Harward never came up, and we haven't really gone down the road with General Petraeus," Priebus told "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace. "As to the staffing at the NSA, the new NSA director can do whatever he or she wants to do with the staffing."
(Priebus ostensibly meant to say "staffing at the NSC" instead of "NSA" - the National Security Agency).
"The president has said very clearly that the new NSA director will have total and complete say over the makeup of the NSC and all of the components of the NSC, and there is no demand made by President Trump on any candidate for NSA director."
On Saturday, support was building for Bolton, according to The Washington Free Beacon, with senior White House officials and members of the National Security Council pushing for the former ambassador and his leadership abilities.
According to The Wall Street Journal, three of the four men meeting with Trump on Sunday would bring years of military leadership to the post.
McMaster, 54, is the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Fort Eustis, Va. and a decorated officer with leadership experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a 1984 graduate of West Point.
Caslen, 63, a retired lieutenant general, filled key leadership posts in Iraq and Afghanistan and is a 1975 graduate of West Point who returned to the military academy as superintendent in 2013.
Kellogg Jr., at 72, is the oldest contender so far. He is a retired three-star Army general who served in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, and later as a special forces adviser to the Cambodian Army.
Bolton, at 68, had also been considered for other posts in the Trump administration, including as secretary of state and then as a deputy for the department. He is currently a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a Fox News commentator.
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