President Donald Trump’s nominee for Navy secretary, investor Philip Bilden, is expected to withdraw from consideration, sources familiar with the decision told POLITICO, becoming the second Pentagon pick unable to untangle their financial investments in the vetting process.
Bilden’s withdrawal could come as early as today, the sources said.
Bilden, who built his career in Hong Kong with the investment firm HarbourVest, was a surprise pick for the Navy post but had had been Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ preferred candidate.
Yet like billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, who withdraw 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, the sources said.
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.
Her Senate confirmation has not yet been scheduled.
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.