Trump’s pick for defense secretary withdraws as past domestic incidents surface

Clay Curtis
June 18, 2019

There hasn't been a full secretary of defence since the resignation of James Mattis in December previous year.

Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan has withdrawn from consideration to be confirmed as Pentagon chief just as he was preparing to appear before a Senate panel for his confirmation hearing, President Trump said Tuesday.

The acting defense secretary did not provide specifics about the family situation but media outlets including The Washington Post and USA Today published extensive reports Tuesday about circumstances surrounding his 2011 divorce shortly before Trump tweeted that Shanahan's nomination would not go forward.

Trump's announcement of Shanahan's decision came shortly after USA Today reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been examining a nine-year-old domestic dispute involving Shanahan and his then-wife as part of a background check for the job as Pentagon chief.

"Based upon his outstanding service to the Country and his demonstrated ability to lead, President Trump intends to nominate Patrick M. Shanahan to be the secretary of Defense", White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that was posted on Twitter May 9.

The White House announced in May that the president meant to nominate Shanahan, however the nomination never made it to the Senate for consideration.

A source familiar with the situation said Shanahan met Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday morning, telling him that he wanted to step down.

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He said he did not want his three children "to relive a traumatic chapter in our family's life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal".

He added, "I would welcome the opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father".

According to court filings and police records, Shanahan and Jordinson both alleged the other had punched them, but Jordinson was taken into custody as police found Shanahan with a bloodied nose, a blood-stained hand and scratched chin.

"Shanahan asked for the charges to be dropped for the sake of his family and asks that this remain a private matter", the spokesperson told Yahoo.

In a statement, Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, said he would also resign as deputy secretary of defense. Shanahan told the paper this week that resurfacing the incident "will ruin my son's life", while backing away from his original self-defense claim.

Shanahan begged off questions about the incident via a spokesperson.

Outside of uniform, Esper has worked at the conservative-leaning Washington think tank the Heritage Foundation, as an adviser to the House Armed Services Committee, as a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations and Government Affairs committees, and as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy during the George W. Bush presidency. At the time, Shanahan said he was "honored" by Trump's decision.

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