Trump’s Navy Secretary nominee jumps ship — a week after saying he wouldn’t
Pres. Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Navy, investment manager Philip Bilden, announced Sunday that he is withdrawing from the nomination — a week after insisting that he was taking the job.
Politico reported that Bilden is the second Trump appointee to drop out after finding himself “unable to untangle his financial investments in the vetting process.”
“Mr. Philip Bilden has informed me that he has come to the difficult decision to withdraw from consideration to be secretary of the Navy,” said a statement from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “This was a personal decision driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests.”
Pres. Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Army, billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, withdrew from his nomination process when the Office of Government Ethics found an insurmountable number of potential conflicts between the Army’s best interests and Viola’s personal enrichment.
Bilden — a former military intelligence officer — recently retired from Hong Kong-based global private equity investment firm HarbourVest.
“I informed secretary of Defense Mattis with regret that I respectfully withdraw from consideration as Nominee for the 76th secretary of the Navy,” said Bilden in a statement. “I fully support the President’s agenda and the Secretary’s leadership to modernize and rebuild our Navy and Marine Corps, and I will continue to support their efforts outside of the Department of the Navy.”
“However,” he said, “after an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”
Rumors swirled last weekend that Bilden was about to jump ship, but both the Pentagon and White House issued strenuous denials.
Trump’s first choice for national security adviser, Gen. Mike Flynn was forced to step down after revelations about his efforts to conceal improper conversations with Russian officials came to light.
The president’s next choice for Flynn’s job, Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, flatly turned the administration down, calling the proposition of working for Trump’s chaotic, neophyte White House “a sh*t sandwich.”
Last weekend, Gen. Barry McCaffrey said that among the men and women qualified to accept jobs in the Trump administration, there is deep reluctance to sign on and risk tarnishing one’s career. That, combined with Trump’s many grudges against Washington officials, has slowed the administration’s hiring and appointment process to a crawl.