Donald Trump suffers fresh blow over choice for top US Navy role

Donald Trump’s choice to be US Navy secretary has withdrawn from consideration for the post in a new blow to the president.


Philip Bilden said his business interests would create complications if he took up the key role.

He is the second Trump nominee to lead one of the armed services to bow out because of government conflict-of-interest rules.

Vincent Viola withdrew as Army secretary nominee earlier this month also citing trouble disengaging with his business ties.

In a statement released by the White House last night, Mr Bilden 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.”

The move comes only days after assurances from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that Mr Bilden was “100%” up for the job.

Responding to reports that he was likely to withdraw from consideration for the Navy job, Mr Spicer tweeted: “Those people would be wrong. Just spoke with him and he is 100% commited to being the next SECNAV pending Senate confirm.”

Defence secretary James Mattis said Mr Bilden’s decision was “personal….driven by privacy concerns and significant challenges he faced in separating himself from his business interests.”

Mr Bilden was an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve from 1986-1996 and relocated to Hong Kong to set up an Asian presence for HarbourVest Partners, a global private equity management firm.

He recently retired from HarbourVest Partners after 25 years.

Mr Mattis said he would make a recommendation to Mr Trump for a nominee in the coming days.

The setback came hours after Mr Trump was attacked by the father of a Navy SEAL killed during an anti-terrorism raid in Yemen last month.

Bill Owens told The Miami Herald that he refused to meet with Mr Trump when both came to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket carrying his son, Chief Special Warfare Officer William “Ryan” Owens.

“I want an investigation,” said Mr Owens, a retired Fort Lauderdale police detective and veteran. “The government owes my son an investigation.”

His son, 36-year-old married father of three, was the lone US fatality in the raid on a suspected al-Qaeda compound. Approximately 16 civilians and 14 militants died in the raid, which the Pentagon said was aimed at capturing information on potential al-Qaeda attacks against the US and its allies.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Mr Owens said. “Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen – everything was missiles and drones – because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”

White House spokeswomen Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she believed President Trump would support an investigation.

Read more: 9 things it’s hard to believe the president of the United States actually just said

“The mission has a lot of different critics, but it did yield a substantial amount of very important intel and resources that helped save American lives and other lives,” she said.