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Trump’s pick for Army secretary pulls out of consideration

Washington: US President Donald Trump’s choice for Army secretary has withdrawn his name from consideration after running into obstacles untangling himself from his business interests, US media reported Saturday.

Vincent Viola is a billionaire who made his fortune after founding high-frequency trading firm Virtu Financial, the Washington Post reported. He is also owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team.

“I appreciate the confidence President Trump showed in me,” he said in a statement to the Military Times. “I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and look forward to redoubling my efforts to support the Army and its veterans as private citizens.”

The Military Times said Viola’s statement concluded that he would not have been able to navigate the confirmation process, which involves meeting the Pentagon’s conflict of interest requirements.

Secretary of Defence James Mattis was “disappointed but understands and respects Mr Viola’s decision,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement.

“The Secretary will recommend to the President another candidate soon.”

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Viola was trying to swap his majority stake in Eastern Air Lines for a piece of Swift Air, a charter company with millions in hard-to-track government contracts.

The Times said Viola, a retired Army major, has an estimated net worth of approximately $1.8 billion.

Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, has nominated numerous wealthy cohorts for top jobs in his administration. But several have faced accusations of conflict of interest amid scrutiny into their complicated finances.

Trump has also been criticized for not fully cutting ties with his businesses, but as president he is not subject to the same ethics requirements as his nominees.

AFP