But Abrams was nixed from the list of contenders after President Donald Trump learned of Abrams' biting criticism last May of his fitness to become president, the Republican sources said.
The President found out about Abrams' outspokenness against Trump after meeting with him on Tuesday to consider him for the position, which would have made him Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's deputy. The meeting went well, but Trump could not get past Abrams' past criticism, the sources said.
Abrams, Bush's deputy national security adviser, had emerged as
the top contender to become Tillerson's right-hand man.
"This is a loss for the State Department and the country and, for that matter, for the President," said one Republican source.
Another Republican source with knowledge of what happened said Abrams would not get the job because of "Donald Trump's thin skin and nothing else."
Tillerson tried to convince Trump to make Abrams his deputy despite the criticism because he felt he needed his foreign policy experience, according to multiple sources. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Jared Kushner also strongly supported Abrams and urged Trump to reconsider, the sources said.
Abrams penned an opinion piece in May in The Weekly Standard titled "When You Can't Stand Your Candidate
" after Trump clinched enough support to become the GOP's presumptive nominee.
"The party has nominated someone who cannot win and should not be president of the United States," Abrams wrote in the first line of the article.
Despite that critique, Abrams never signed any of the open letters top GOP foreign policy officials penned opposing Trump's nomination.
The criticism went both ways. Trump has lambasted politics advocated by the former national security official.
While in the White House, Abrams supported the Iraq War, which Trump backed in its early days but soon vigorously opposed -- particularly on the 2016 campaign trail -- as a "stupid" decision.
And Trump has frequently argued against other views embraced by neoconservatives like Abrams, including that the US has wasted too many resources abroad, particularly in trying to promote democracies in the Middle East -- a key tenet of the Bush administration.