Vice President Mike Pence’s choice as his new top national security aide withdrew after a news report that President Donald Trump had objected to the appointment.
The prospective aide, Jon Lerner, “informed the Vice President that he was withdrawing from coming on board as national security advisor and the Vice President accepted his decision,” Pence’s spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said late Sunday in a statement. “Vice President Pence holds Jon Lerner in the highest regard and expressed his deep gratitude for Jon’s willingness to consider joining our team.”
Earlier Sunday, Axios reported that the president had tried to block Lerner from the appointment because the former political operative had crafted anti-Trump attack ads during the Republican primaries in 2016.
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Lerner, who serves as a deputy for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, was planning to join Pence’s team while continuing to work with Haley, Axios reported.
Pence has been without a national security adviser for months after Andrea Thompson resigned and was nominated by Trump to a senior post in the State Department.
Lerner will continue to advise Pence informally while remaining on Haley’s team, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Pence prides himself on operating without drama so he accepted Lerner’s decision to withdraw in order to avoid distraction, the official said.
The personnel flap is a rare example of Pence and Trump publicly butting heads. Pence has spent much of his time in office effusively defending the president, often reinterpreting Trump’s most controversial statements in ways that are less inflammatory.
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And while Trump has seen a rash of personnel drama and turnover among his staff --including three national security advisers in 15 months -- Pence had mostly avoided such controversy to this point.
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