Elliott Abrams, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, said he likely was rejected for the No. 2 position at the State Department by President Donald Trump because of Trump's chief counsel, Steve Bannon.
Abrams was reportedly favored for the job by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who serves as a top adviser.
"The only person on the White House staff that I know who was opposed to my being hired was Steve Bannon, so that's my guess." Abrams said Monday on CNN's Erin Burnett "OutFront" "It's a guess."
According to CNN's reporting last week, Abrams was not hired because he had criticized Trump during the campaign. Abrams told Burnett he had met with Trump and Tillerson, prepared to address those criticisms, but never got the chance.
"The meeting was an hour-long meeting," Abrams said. "Most of the talking was done by Secretary Tillerson. It wasn't really around an interview with me."
During the campaign, Abrams regularly questioned Trump's ability to serve as president should he win. He told Burnett his concerns have not changed, but said he was willing to serve because he wants Trump — and Tillerson — to succeed at their jobs. Neither has any experience in government other than their current jobs.
Trump has tapped some of his former critics, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for U.N. ambassador and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as energy secretary.
But, Abrams added, it is "a huge mistake" for Trump to ban anyone from his administration for being critical of him.
"You have literally hundreds of qualified experienced Republicans ready, willing and able to serve, and he's saying, stay out," Abrams said of Trump. "So, it's going to be really hard to govern. There's huge bureaucracies out there.
"How do you get a handle on them with people who know what they're doing? He's saying literally to hundreds of Republicans, 'We don't need you, because you criticized me last year.'"
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