Shanahan out at Pentagon, Esper now acting secretary

Acting defense secretary bows out of running to be confirmed as Pentagon chief

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday he had withdrawn from consideration to head the US military as reports of domestic violence in his family surfaced, stoking uncertainty about the leadership of the Pentagon as tensions with Iran rise.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, seated between national security adviser John Bolton and President Trump, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 22, 2019.

The Senate Armed Services Committee initially had his confirmation hearing planned for Tuesday, June 18.

Trump said that he believes Esper will do a good job "I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!" he wrote.

In a statement Tuesday, Shanahan said he was withdrawing because "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".

The announcement followsa report from USA Today that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into a violent domestic dispute between Shanahan and his former wife during which both claimed they'd been punched by the other.

"In response to a request from the US Central Command for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East", Shanahan said in a statement.

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".

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The president added that the Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, will be the new acting secretary.

But as a result of that situation, Shanahan said, he asked to be withdrawn from the nomination process and he resigned from his previous post as deputy defence secretary.

Last week, NBC News reported that Trump was having second thoughts about formally nominating Shanahan and that he had been asking confidants while in Normandy about potential alternatives.

"However well-qualified Secretary Esper may be, it is critical that the President nominate, and that the Senate confirm, a permanent Secretary of Defense as quickly as possible".

Mr. Shanahan, a former top executive at Boeing, was tapped by Mr. Trump for the job more than a month ago, but Senate leaders were still waiting Tuesday to receive the formal nomination paperwork.

Esper has been Secretary of the Army since November 20, 2017.

This is a developing story, stay tuned for updates.

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