Trump’s nominee for Navy secretary withdraws

Philip Bilden announces decision days after White House says he 100% committed to role

US president Donald Trump speaks during the Governor’s Dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington on Sunday. Photograph: Reuters

US president Donald Trump speaks during the Governor’s Dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington on Sunday. Photograph: Reuters

 

President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Navy withdrew from consideration Sunday, saying that meeting the government’s ethics guidelines would require too great a financial sacrifice.

Philip Bilden, a former military intelligence officer who ran the Hong Kong branch of a private equity firm, said in a statement that he had informed defence secretary Jim Mattis that he did not want to continue to seek confirmation a month after he had been named for the post.

It was the latest case in which wealthy businesspeople whom Mr Trump has favoured for government jobs have been tripped up by the demands of avoiding conflicts of interest.

On February 3rd Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader and Trump’s choice for secretary of the army, withdrew because he decided it was too difficult to detach himself from his business interests.

Mr Bilden said in a statement that he fully supported the president’s agenda. But he added, “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.” He did not elaborate.

CBS News reported on February 18th that Mr Bilden was likely to withdraw his nomination, but Trump administration officials denied it.

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, said on Twitter that CBS’s sources were “wrong.” Mr Mattis called Mr Bilden’s decision disappointing but said he understood it, saying it was “driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests.”

Mr Bilden, the son of a naval officer, attended Georgetown University on an ROTC scholarship and served from 1986-96 in the Army Reserve as an intelligence officer.

He was a board member of the Naval Academy Foundation and the Naval War College Foundation and has two sons who attended the Naval Academy. He was reported to be Mr Mattis’ choice for the position.

He made his fortune in a 25-year career at HarbourVest Partners, first in Boston and then in Hong Kong.

New York Times