“I think that combination is something very, very special,” Trump said, later adding: “What a team. This is a great team. ”
Both men were among four candidates whom White House aides said Trump had planned to interview this weekend to replace Flynn, a retired general and early Trump political supporter.
Flynn was asked to resign last week amid allegations that he discussed U.S. sanctions with a Russian official before Trump took office and then misrepresented the content of that conversation to Vice President Pence and other administration officials.
Trump’s first choice of a replacement — retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward — turned him down, compounding the embarassment surrounding the episode.
Trump’s bid to move forward with a replacement comes as his fledgling administration is seeking a reset on several other fronts. The president has pledged to issue a new executive order this week replacing his now-frozen directive on immigration, which has come to symbolize his struggle to translate ambitious campaign promises into policy.
The national security adviser, part of the senior White House staff, serves as the chief in-house counselor to the president on national security issues and has traditionally sought to play the role of a broker among agencies. The position does not require Senate confirmation.
Trump also told reporters Monday that John Bolton, a former United Nations ambassador who had been considered for the national security adviser position, would be asked “to work with us in a somewhat different capacity.”
“We had some really good meetings with him,” Trump said. “Knows a lot. He had a good number of ideas that I must tell you I agree very much.”
In brief remarks, McMaster said it would be “a privilege” to continue to serve the nation. “I look forward to joining the national security team and doing everything that I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people,” he said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump “gave full authority for McMaster to hire whatever staff he sees fit.”
As he introduced McMaster and Kellogg to reporters, Trump and his two appointees said on a couch at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. The room was decorated with two massive chandeliers and dozens of roses in a large arrangement.
As the men spoke, classical music played. The event lasted roughly three minutes.
In response to a shouted question from a reporter about whether Pence played a role in the picks, Trump replied: “He did.”
During a stop in Brussels on Monday, Pence make his first public comments about Flynn’s outser as national security adviser, saying he “fully supported” the move. “I was disappointed to learn that the facts that have been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate,” Pence told reporters during a visit to NATO headquarters.
Pence learned from a report in The Washington Post that Flynn had been captured on tape speaking to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about sanctions before Trump took office. The conversation happened the day the Obama administration announced measures against Russia to retaliate for what U.S. intelligence services say was the Kremlin’s efforts to influence November’s presidential election.
Trump’s pick of McMaster drew praise Monday from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has not been shy about questioning other recent moves by Trump.
McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called McMaster “an outstanding choice for national security advisor.”
“I have had the honor of knowing him for many years, and he is a man of genuine intellect, character, and ability,” McCain said. “I could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now.”