PoliticsActing defense secretary bows out of running to be confirmed as Pentagon chief
Republicans warn Cuccinelli won't get confirmed by GOP Senate
Senate Republicans are warning that Ken Cuccinelli, who was tapped Monday to serve as the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will not be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.
Acting defense secretary withdrew from consideration to be confirmed as Pentagon chief on Tuesday, President Trump said, plunging the Pentagon into leadership upheaval for the second time in six months.
, Trump said that Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who has led the Pentagon on an acting basis since early this year, “has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family.”
White House knew of Shanahan domestic incident for months, officials say
Shanahan's expected nomination to become defense secretary was on track "even of this morning," an administration official told CBS News the White House was aware of the incident involving Shanahan's son, but didn't know about the 2010 confrontation. Another official said the White House knew about the 2011 incident dating back to when Bill Shine was White House communications director. Shine resigned in March of this year. The White House had not formally nominated Shanahan to become permanent defense secretary, but plans to do so were on track "even of this morning," an adminis .
Trump said that Mark Esper, another former defense industry executive who now serves as Army secretary, would be the new acting defense secretary.
The decision upends what was expected to be an imminent confirmation process for Shanahan at a moment when the military is scrambling to maintain its technological edge over China and fears are mounting about.
Shanahan pulled himself out of the running as media organizations including The Washington Post published reports shedding light for the first time on details of Shanahan’s contentious divorce, including a domestic abuse allegation and his role in an incident in which his son attacked his ex-wife with a baseball bat.
Trump’s empty Cabinet
Patrick Shanahan’s departure highlights the administration’s hollowed-out senior ranks.
After decades at Boeing, Shanahan was seen as a Washington outsider when he joined the Pentagon as deputy secretary in 2017, overseeing its massive budget in addition to acquisition, technology and space issues. He then became acting secretary when his predecessor, Jim Mattis, resigned abruptly in December over differences with Trump, and went on to become the department’s longest-serving acting secretary in history.
From the moment he was named, Shanahan scrambled to prove to a skeptical Washington establishment that he had the chops to oversee the world’s most powerful military at a time of transformation, sometimes deferring to subordinates during congressional testimony and often taking a back seat on messaging with regard to burgeoning crises overseas.
Shanahan’s six-month tenure as defense secretary has also been clouded by uncertainty about his fate. At first speculation mounted for months about whether Trump would pick him to be confirmed. In May, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said he would be nominated after the Pentagon’s inspector general cleared him of any wrongdoing in an investigation related to allegations that he may have acted improperly in favor of Boeing, a major defense contractor.
New acting Pentagon chief has closer ties to Trump
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But even following that, Shanahan had not been formally nominated, despite the fact he had initially been expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee for a confirmation hearing in mid-June.
One official familiar with Shanahan’s confirmation discussions said Tuesday afternoon after Trump’s tweets that he does not think Shanahan withdrew from consideration under pressure from the White House.
“I’m pretty sure he made his own decision,” the official said. “They were struggling with this here recently.”
The official said that Shanahan repeatedly expressed “overwhelming concern for the members of his family” as it became evident that sensitive details about them could become public.
Esper, Trump’s new acting defense secretary, was confirmed as Army secretary in November 2017 after two earlier nominees for the position withdrew under scrutiny. A former top lobbyist with Raytheon, he has focused heavily on modernizing the service and innovation.
Esper served 25 years in the Army and the Virginia National Guard and has varied experience in government that includes serving as a deputy assistance secretary of defense during the administration of President George W. Bush, national security adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) and legislative director to then-Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.)
A spokesman for Esper could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
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