The Rumor Mill is Still working…. Shanahan withdraws as Slander increases

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives at the Pentagon for the first time in his official capacity, on Jan. 2, 2019 in Arlington, Va. (Photo: Mark Wilson, Getty Images)

By Ellen Mitchell  |  The Hill

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has withdrawn from consideration to lead the Pentagon on a permanent basis, President Trump announced Tuesday.

Trump said in a pair of tweets that Shanahan wanted to “devote more time to his family.” The messages were posted shortly after the publication of multiple media reports describing past domestic violence incidents involving Shanahan’s family.

“Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick 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 tweeted.

Shanahan said in a statement that going forward with 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.”

“I would welcome the opportunity to be secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father,” he said. 

Who will replace him: The president said he would name Mark Esper, who currently serves as secretary of the Army, as the new acting Defense chief. Trump did not say if Esper would be nominated for the permanent role. Esper, who was confirmed by the Senate 89-6 in the fall of 2017, is a former infantry officer and previously served as a top executive at the defense contractor Raytheon.

Bad timing: The decision leaves the Pentagon without a permanent leader at a time of rising tensions with Iran, which the Trump administration has accused of attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The administration on Monday ordered another 1,000 troops to the Middle East.

What caused the decision: Trump’s announcement Tuesday came just over an hour after USA Today reported that Shanahan’s FBI background check was being held up by an alleged 2010 domestic fight with his now-ex wife.

The White House first announced in May that Trump intended to nominate Shanahan as Defense secretary. But his nomination was never officially sent to the Senate. As more and more time passed, questions began to swirl about whether Trump was souring on Shanahan.

But after rumors circulated under the radar for weeks, reports began to come out publicly this week that the process was being marred by the alleged domestic incident.

The specifics: As reported by USA Today, police reports and court filings showed that an August 2010 fight between Shanahan and his now ex-wife escalated into a physical clash. The wife, Kimberley Jordinson, reportedly told police he punched her in the stomach, while he told police she was the aggressor and punched him “10 or 20 times.”

She was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, but prosecutors later dropped the charges citing a lack of evidence.

The Washington Post on Tuesday also detailed a 2011 incident in which Shanahan’s son hit Jordinson with a baseball bat and left Jordinson unconscious in a pool of blood.

“Bad things can happen to good families … and this is a tragedy, really,” Shanahan told the Post in an interview published shortly after Trump’s tweets. Dredging up the episode publicly, Shanahan said, “will ruin my son’s life.”

Capitol Hill shocked: Shanahan’s abrupt withdrawal left senators fuming and the Defense Department rudderless at a time of rising tensions with Iran.

It raises questions anew about how much longer the Pentagon will go without a confirmed leader at a time of turmoil with Iran many lawmakers fear could turn to war.

The announcement left senators angry they had been left in the dark about many of the details from Shanahan’s past even though he had already gone through a confirmation process to be deputy Defense secretary.

“I feel that there was possibly a deliberate concealment here,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I think there ought to be an investigation by the IG in the Department of Defense. … There ought to be a complete investigation of that whole process. …  This is potentially a violation of criminal law.”

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he was aware during Shanahan’s deputy secretary confirmation of a “contentious divorce,” but that many of Tuesday’s reported details were new.

“The more we know, the better off we are,” Reed said when asked if the committee should have known the rest. 

GOP caught off guard: Republican senators quickly backed Shanahan’s decision to withdraw in the wake of multiple reports describing past domestic violence incidents involving his family, with some voicing surprise at the allegations.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), a top ally of President Trump, called the move Tuesday a “smart decision,” adding that he hadn’t heard about the domestic violence allegations “in detail” but had heard “rumors about them.”

“It probably was a smart decision given the issues before the White House. … I really appreciate what Shanahan has done,” Graham told reporters. “Now we have got to find a replacement.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he was in the dark about the fact that Trump and Shanahan were discussing pulling the nomination, and had told reporters only minutes before that the Defense secretary pick was safe despite reports of trouble.

“I was responding not more than two hours ago that no there’s no problem … then three minutes after that I got a call from the president,” Inhofe said.

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