Nominee for Navy Secretary withdraws – Politico
President Donald Trump’s nominee for Navy secretary, Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration Sunday, becoming the second Pentagon pick 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,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement. “This was a personal decision driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests.”
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Mattis added that he would make a recommendation to the White House for a new nominee “in the coming days.”
Bilden, who built his career in Hong Kong with the investment firm HarbourVest, was a surprise pick for the Navy post but had been Mattis’ preferred candidate.
Yet like billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, who withdrew his nomination to be secretary of the Army earlier this month, Bilden ran into too many challenges during a review by the Office of Government Ethics to avoid potential conflicts of interest, according to sources familiar with the decision.
“I informed secretary of Defense Mattis with regret that I respectfully withdraw from consideration as Nominee for the 76th secretary of the Navy,” Bilden said in a statement Sunday.
“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,” Bilden continued. “However, 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’s withdrawal leaves Mattis with just Air Force Secretary nominee Heather Wilson, a former New Mexico Republican congresswoman, in line for a top political post at the Pentagon.
Her Senate confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled, and her ethics agreement has not been finalized with the Office of Government Ethics.
Bilden served as an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve from 1986 to 1996 and is on the board of directors of the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.
He moved to Hong Kong in 1996 to launch HarbourVest’s Asian subsidiary and recently retired from the firm, according to a White House biography released when he was nominated.
Last week White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied a report that Bilden could be withdrawing. “Just spoke with him and he is 100% commited (sic) to being the next SECNAV pending Senate confirm,” Spicer tweeted.
Spicer’s earlier denial came the same week that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned from his post, and retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward declined to take the job. That ultimately went to Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Trump’s first pick for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, also withdrew that same week.
Shane Goldmacher contributed to this report.