President Trump on Tuesday withdrew the nomination of Patrick M. Shanahan to be the permanent defense secretary, leaving the Pentagon in transition at a time of escalating tensions with Iran and questions about the role of the military on the border with Mexico.
Trump had tweeted that Patrick Shanahan has pulled out of consideration “so that he can devote more time to his family”. “I didn’t ask him to withdraw, but he walked in this morning and said it was going to be a rough time for him,” Trump said, adding that he first heard of the “unfortunate” allegations on Monday.
Shanahan’s ex-wife had accused him of punching her in the stomach, which Shanahan has denied. He said his ex-wife started the fight, and his spokesman said she was arrested and charged with domestic violence. The charges were eventually dropped.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Shanahan said that “I would welcome the opportunity to be secretary of defense, but not at the expense of being a good father.” He said that he became worried that his “continuation 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.”
Meanwhile Trump has named Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army and a former Raytheon executive, to take over as acting secretary of defense.
However he made no comments on whether Esper would be nominated for the permanent position, but told reporters he was a “highly respected” graduate of West Point and Harvard and predicted that “he’ll do very well.”
Officials have also said Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and Richard V. Spencer, the secretary of the Navy, were on the short list for defense secretary.