(WASHINGTON) — In a surprise development, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has decided not to move forward with the confirmation process to take the job permanently, President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
Trump said while Shanahan “has done a wonderful job, he has decided not to go forward…so that he can devote more time to his family.”
In a second tweet, the president named Army Secretary Mark Esper as his next nominee for Pentagon chief — a job which has now been vacant since former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in December.
The decision for Shanahan to step down coincides with media reports from USA Today and the Washington Post which detail episodes of domestic violence that occurred in Shanahan’s family over a decade ago.
The Post, which interviewed Shanahan on Monday evening, detailed two incidents: one in which Shanahan’s now ex-wife was arrested for punching him in the face and another in which his son was arrested for hitting his mother with a baseball bat.
In a statement to USA Today, Shanahan said, “After having been confirmed for deputy secretary less than two years ago, it is unfortunate that such a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way as a result of this nomination process.”
“Though my marriage ended in sorrow and disappointment, I never laid a hand on my then-wife 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 … I wish nothing but the best for her and regret that my children’s privacy has been violated and they are being forced to relive a tragic situation that we have worked so hard as a family to put behind us.”
In another statement the Pentagon issued Tuesday afternoon, Shanahan said it was “unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way.”
“The confirmation process should focus on securing our nation against threats, readiness and the future of our military, and ensuring the highest quality care and support for service members and their families. After having been confirmed for Deputy Secretary less than two years ago, it is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process. I believe my continuing in 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. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.
“I would welcome the opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father. After significant reflection, I have asked to be withdrawn from consideration for Secretary of Defense and will resign my position as Deputy Secretary of Defense,” his statement said.
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, had served as deputy defense secretary and stepped into the role in an “acting” capacity on Jan. 1 after Mattis resigned over policy differences with the president.
Mark Esper, who has served as Army Secretary since November 2017, will now go through the nomination process. He is a former senior executive at Raytheon, who also has extensive experience working on Capitol Hill. Esper graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1986 and served in the Army for over a decade, including a deployment to the Gulf War.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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