President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has pulled out of the Senate nomination process and resigned his post.
What’s the background?
On Dec. 20, former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned from his post in protest after Trump announced plans for the rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. ISIS, Trump had argued, was defeated and the U.S. troops no longer had a reason to be in that country. Mattis begged Trump to reconsider, saying Trump was abandoning U.S. allies in the region.
Mattis had offered to stay on until the end of February, but on Dec. 23, Trump fired Mattis and replaced him with Shanahan, who would be acting secretary until such a time when he could be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
What happened now?
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that Shanahan “who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family.” Trump added that Shanahan would be replaced by current Secretary of the Army Mark Esper.
In a statement reported by The Hill, Shanahan said that the confirmation hearings “would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal.”
Shanahan had faced an uphill battle for confirmation. A former Boeing executive, Shanahan stood accused of favoring his former employer although the Pentagon’s inspector general cleared him of these allegations in April. He had also been criticized for his lack of experience and was accused of allowing national security adviser John Bolton to have too much influence in the Department of Defense.
On Tuesday, before this announcement was made, Shanahan had supplied USA Today with a statement involving domestic violence accusations levied against him by his ex-wife.
“Though my marriage ended in sorrow and disappointment, I never laid a hand on my then-wife,” he insisted, “and cooperated fully in a thorough law enforcement investigation that resulted in her being charged with assault against me — charges which I had dropped in the interest of my family.”
It is not clear if this incident is related to his resignation.
Under the Federal Vacancies Act of 1998, the president can appoint an acting defense secretary without immediately getting Senate confirmation, but this acting secretary can serve in that role for only 210 days before a nomination for their confirmation is given to the Senate.
Trump had announced in May that he planned to nominate Shanahan, but never actually submitted the nomination. Tuesday marks 177 days since Mattis was fired.
Who is Mark Esper?
Esper has been Secretary of the Army since Nov. 20, 2017. He also served as national security adviser for former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) when Frist was Senate Majority Leader.