Trump names finalists for national security adviser

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE on Tuesday named five finalists to replace former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonBolton says he would have personally briefed Trump on Russian bounties Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Mark Penn Judge temporarily blocks publication of Mary Trump book MORE, a list that included Vice President Pence’s top aide on national security.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump said the top candidates are Fred Fleitz, Bolton’s former chief of staff and a former CIA analyst; former deputy national security adviser Rick Waddell; Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, the undersecretary for nuclear security at the Department of Energy; Army Gen. Keith Kellogg, Pence's national security adviser; and Robert O’Brien, special envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department.

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Trump offered praise for Kellogg and Waddell and called O’Brien “fantastic.”

“I love Keith Kellogg. Keith Kellogg, he’s been with me from the beginning. He’s great,” Trump said, later noting he liked Waddell “a lot.”

Trump abruptly ousted Bolton last week over disagreements on a range of issues, including North Korea. Bolton’s departure came days after Trump scrapped a planned meeting with the Taliban at Camp David; Bolton reportedly opposed the idea of holding the meeting.

O’Brien was tapped as special envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department in May 2018. He was central to the president’s effort to bring back rap star A$AP Rocky, who was being held in Sweden on assault charges.

Kellogg, a decorated Army veteran, has been with the administration from the start, taking over as acting national security adviser in early 2017 following the resignation of Michael Flynn just weeks into his tenure.

Kellogg remained on the National Security Council through H.R. McMaster’s tenure and took on the role as Pence’s national security adviser in April 2018, shortly after Bolton was brought on to replace McMaster.

Waddell, an Army Reserve general, served as deputy national security adviser under McMaster and was ousted under Bolton as part of a broader exodus in 2018.

Fleitz served as Bolton’s chief of staff and left the administration in October to rejoin the neoconservative think tank Center for Security Policy. He is a former CIA analyst who worked under Bolton during his days at State during the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz was also said to be considered as a potential candidate for director of national intelligence, for which Trump has not yet announced a permanent nominee.

Gordon-Hagerty was confirmed in February 2018 to her post at the Department of Energy. She also serves as administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

It's unclear when Trump will name his choice to replace Bolton. Trump is traveling in California for campaign fundraisers and is due back in Washington on Wednesday.

The president said last week he planned to announce a new national security adviser this week. On Thursday, he said there were 15 candidates who wanted the job.

Trump is prone to change his mind and it’s still possible his ultimate choice could come from outside the list of five he named on Tuesday.

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But Trump’s remarks Tuesday indicate he has narrowed down the field. Other names that have been floated include State Department special representative to North Korea Stephen Biegun and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell.

Brett Samuels contributed.

Updated at 6:24 p.m.