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Another Trump nominee withdraws nomination to top national security post due to business interests

 (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press)
(Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press)

Philip M. Bilden, President Trump’s pick for Navy secretary, withdrew from consideration late Sunday, becoming the second White House nominee to bail on a top Pentagon position due to problems untangling his financial investments.

“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,” Bilden said in a statement.

He did not detail the issues but he said he “fully” supported “the president's agenda … to modernize and rebuild our Navy and Marine Corps.”

Bilden’s withdrawal comes after billionaire investor Vincent Viola dropped out from becoming Army secretary after he decided his extensive financial holdings would hamper his ability to win Senate confirmation.

The White House shot down reports that surfaced two weeks ago that Bilden was considering stepping down.

“Just spoke with him and he is 100% commited [sic] to being the next SECNAV pending Senate confirm,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer tweeted on Feb. 18.

Bilden, a venture capitalist and Army veteran, was a surprise selection from Trump but had the backing of Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

“This was a personal decision driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests,” Mattis said in a statement. “While I am disappointed, I understand and his respect his decision, and know that he will continue to support our nation in other ways.”

Bilden served ten years in the U.S. Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer from 1986 to 1996. He then co-founded private equity firm HarbourVest Partners LLC and spent 25 years there, mainly in the company’s Hong Kong headquarters.

He also serves on the board of directors of the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.

Mattis said he intends on recommending a replacement nominee to Trump “in the coming days.”

The withdrawal marks another setback for Trump’s national security team, which has struggled to find its footing since the fledgling administration began.

Earlier this month, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign after it became public that he held secret talks with a Russian ambassador and then misled Vice President Mike Pence about it.

Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster took the job last week after Trump’s first choice to replace Flynn, retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward, passed on the opportunity.

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