Trump's acting defence secretary drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing 'painful' past

19 Juin, 2019, 07:56 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Trump's acting defence secretary drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing 'painful' past

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has withdrawn from consideration to head the Pentagon, President Donald Trump has said, announcing that the current Secretary of the Army Mark Esper will become the new acting secretary.

In his tweet, Trump simply said that Shanahan had done "a wonderful job" but would step aside to "devote more time to his family".

The White House announced in May that Shanahan was nominated to be the permanent Secretary of Defense. The White House never formally sent his nomination to the Senate.

Earlier on Tuesday, USA Today reported the FBI was investigating a 2010 incident in which Mr Shanahan and his ex-wife accused each other of assault. A subsequent piece (including interviews with Shanahan) at The Washington Post reported past abuse by his then-wife involving his children, including an incident where she beat her son and tried to set his clothes on fire, and a separate incident in 2011 where his son cracked her skull with a baseball bat. The source, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the decision was 100 percent Shanahan's.

"I didn't ask him to withdraw, but he walked in this morning", Mr Trump said.

The decision comes amid reports of domestic violence in Shanahan's family nine years ago, including between his ex-wife and his son and another account of violence between him and his ex-wife.

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"I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family's life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal", he continued. "Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority".

Trump appointed Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, to acting secretary last December after James Mattis stepped down.

Trump announced Shanahan's departure in a tweet and said the secretary of the army, Mark Esper, will take over as the new acting defence secretary. Esper's predecessor Patrick Shanahan similarly worked for Boeing. "At a time when we need a steady hand, with experience, that understands this threat, but also understands the array of responses that we need to have at our availability to deal with a belligerent Iran, we have people who are essentially not ready for prime time".

The former Pentagon boss noted Esper's work for two U.S. Senators (including Hagel himself, who was a Repubican senator from Nebraska from 1996-2008). Esper served with the 101st Airborne Division in the Gulf War and also commanded an airborne rifle company while stationed in Europe. He is calling for an investigation by the Defense Department's inspector general. He also has a master of public administration degree from Harvard University and a doctorate in public policy from George Washington University.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said it was a bad time for the United States not to have stable leadership at the Pentagon.

Mark Thornbury, a Republican from Texas and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, threw his weight behind Esper on Tuesday, but argued in a statement that Esper should be confirmed as quickly as possible to ensure that the Department of Defense has a permanent Secretary of Defense instead of an acting one.

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