Published: Fri, June 21, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

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

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

And Tuesday he was abruptly elevated from his job as Army secretary to be acting defense secretary, becoming the third person to lead the Pentagon under President Donald Trump.

Shanahan stepped down Tuesday citing a "painful" family situation that would hurt his children and reopen "wounds we have worked years to heal".

Trump said the secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, will be named as the new acting defense secretary.

Shanahan, who was confirmed early in the Trump administration as deputy secretary of defense, came to government from a career as a senior manager and executive from Boeing.

FILE - In this February 14, 2019 file photo, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks about the situation in the Persian Gulf region during a meeting with Portuguese Minister of National Defense Joao Cravinho, at the Pentagon.

There hasn't been a full secretary of defense since the resignation of James Mattis in December past year after splits in the administration over Trump's sudden decision to remove United States troops from Syria.

Patrick Shanahan had been acting Secretary following Jim Mattis's resignation at the end of 2018 after Mr Trump announced an immediate withdrawal from Syria when Mr Mattis had pushed for the USA to wait until it was certain ISIS would not regroup.

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.

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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 police report said that both of them had been drunk.

"I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!" the president tweeted. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.

Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports from Washington, DC. Esper and Shanahan met at length Tuesday to begin transition planning.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised Esper and said he believed that he was the most likely choice to be nominated. Later, Trump told reporters at the White House that he heard about the problems for the first time Monday.

Trump announced in May that he would nominate Shanahan but the formal nomination process in the Senate had been inexplicably delayed. The 55-year-old father of three spent years in the defense industry and on Capitol Hill and served in the Pentagon as deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy.

He tweeted that Patrick Shanahan has pulled out of consideration "so that he can devote more time to his family".

The former Boeing executive has been leading the Pentagon as acting secretary since January 1 despite having very little experience in government, a highly unusual arrangement for one of the most sensitive Cabinet positions. The U.S. has also increased its military presence along the border with Mexico and has reached new heights in its tensions with Iran.

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