H.R. McMaster
H.R. McMasterReuters

The White House is preparing to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser as early as next month, NBC News reported Thursday.

The move to replace McMaster was orchestrated by White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, five people familiar with the discussions told the network.

The move would be the latest in a long string of staff shakeups at the White House over the past year and comes after months of strained relations between the president and McMaster.

A leading candidate to become President Donald Trump’s third national security adviser is the auto industry executive Stephen Biegun, according to the officials.

Biegun, who currently serves as vice president of international governmental affairs for the Ford Motor Company, served on the National Security Council staff from 2001 to 2003, including as a senior staffer for then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Rice introduced Biegun to Mattis, recommending him for a position in the administration, a close associate of Rice said. After Mattis met with Biegun at a think tank event he was convinced Biegun would be a good fit for the national security adviser role, the associate said.

Two people close to Biegun said he would need several weeks to get his financial affairs in order to be able to join the administration this spring.

Biegun did not respond himself to a request for comment. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

McMaster joined the White House last year to replace Michael Flynn, who resigned after just 24 days in office amid revelations that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his dealings with Russian officials. Flynn, who was a target of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and potential ties to Russia, has since pleaded guilty to perjury.

McMaster’s tenure has been rocky. There have been staff shake-ups, questions about McMaster’s decision to voice political positions while still in uniform, and public disagreements with Trump, noted NBC News.

Most recently, McMaster told a forum in Germany that Russian meddling in the election was "incontrovertible," a comment that drew a quick rebuke from the president.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump later wrote on Twitter.

News of McMaster’s potential replacement comes a day after White House communications director Hope Hicks abruptly resigned from her post.

Her resignation came a day after she testified to the House Intelligence Committee as part of their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, during which she reportedly admitted that her job in the Trump administration required her to tell "white lies."

However, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday Hicks’ departure was not related to her testimony.