Who Is Jon Lerner? Pence's National Security Advisor Nominee Withdraws in Face of Trump Opposition

Jon Lerner was about to become national security advisor to Vice President Mike Pence until he suddenly withdrew his acceptance of the position amid reports of tensions in the White House over the appointment.

Lerner, who turns 50 this year, currently serves as deputy at the United Nations to the U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, who he had helped in 2011 to secure the state governorship in South Carolina.

Pence's office released a statement confirming that Lerner had withdrawn from the role, and said the vice president holds him "the highest regard," reported CNN. According to Axios, Trump blocked Lerner because of his past role in the 'Never Trump' campaign by Republicans.

Politico reported in July 2016, before Trump became Republican nominee for president, that Lerner was working in the shadows as a strategist and pollster instrumental to the anti-Trump movement within the party.

Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump makes a statement about Syria at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 13, 2018. Trump reportedly blocked Vice President Mike Pence's choice for national security advisor. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The publicity-shy Minneapolis-born political strategist, who is married to Aliza with whom he has three children—a son, Elia, and two daughters, Lena and Batshiva—runs the Red Sea consultancy firm, which he founded two decades ago.

He was educated at George Washington University, the London School of Economics, and the University of Chicago Law School, according to the Red Sea website. Now he lives in Maryland.

"Candidates are better served when they remain the focus of public attention rather than their consultants," Lerner, who is a devout Jew, told McClatchy in a rare 2010 interview. "I guess I don't have the same kind of ego investment that others in the industry have."

Lerner is admired in conservative circles for his political talents and commitment to his beliefs.

"He works for clients who he believes in and who reflect his own ideological principles," Jenny Sanford, the former first lady of South Carolina who worked with Lerner on her husband Mark's campaign for state governor, told McClatchy. "That provides him a sense of purpose and integrity and focus that is lacking in other consultants."

"Jon is one of the most brilliant minds in politics, having guided candidates such as Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, and Marco Rubio," Nick Muzin, a former senior advisor to Senator Ted Cruz, told Jewish Insider.