Pence National Security Pick Withdraws After POTUS Hears Of Anti-Trump Ad Ties

Jon Lerner is helping guide South Carolina Rep. Nikki Haley's campaign in the same stealth manner he consulted Gov. Mark Sanford's two gubernatorial runs. Lerner's biggest success story this year may be S.C. Rep. Tim Scott, who came out of a crowded field to steal the 1st Congressional District Republican primary and is on his way to becoming the only black GOP member of Congress. (Photo courtesy Campaigns & Elections/MCT)
MCT/Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence’s choice to be his new national security adviser has withdrawn from consideration after President Donald Trump got wind of the plan to hire someone associated with anti-Trump ads in the past.

The White House said Jon Lerner, an adviser to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, withdrew from the proposed dual role with the vice president. Alyssa Farah, a Pence spokeswoman, said Lerner informed Pence on Sunday night that he was withdrawing and Pence accepted his decision.

Farah said Pence holds Lerner “in the highest regard and expressed his deep gratitude for Jon’s willingness to consider joining our team.”

Lerner is a longtime Republican strategist and pollster who advised Haley’s campaigns for South Carolina governor. He also worked with the Club for Growth, which aired ads critical of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump’s push to block Lerner’s appointment was first reported by Axios.

As president, Trump has bristled at Republicans who opposed him during the GOP primaries and pushed back against the hiring of foreign policy experts who were critical of him during his Republican campaign.

A White House official said chief of staff John Kelly was informed of Pence’s plans to hire Lerner, but the vice president’s office did not notify Kelly about Lerner’s past work for the Club for Growth. It was also unclear if Lerner could play a dual role within the administration, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to describe internal deliberations and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One to Florida on Monday that Lerner “didn’t want to be a distraction and wanted to be able to focus on helping the administration moving forward.” Sanders said Lerner would continue to serve with Haley at the United Nations.

Pence has been playing a larger foreign policy role in recent months. He filled in for Trump last weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, to allow the president to manage the administration’s response to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria and has traveled in recent months to the Middle East and to Afghanistan in support of Trump.

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