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Shanahan Out, Esper in at Pentagon

Trump taps the Army secretary to serve as the next acting secretary of defense.

Nate Jackson · Jun. 19, 2019

There’s upheaval at the Pentagon after acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan resigned and withdrew from the consideration for the full post Tuesday. Informally announced as President Donald Trump’s nominee to permanently fill the role vacated by James Mattis last December, Shanahan’s FBI background check turned lengthy, likely because of domestic violence in his home. Rather than put his family through that trauma again, Shanahan withdrew. Trump tapped U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper to serve as acting DOD secretary.

Shanahan’s story is an odd one. He and his ex-wife both told police in 2010 about domestic violence on the part of the other. He still insists he “never laid a hand on” her, and she was the only one arrested. And in another incident in 2011, his then-17-year-old son hit his mother (Shanahan’s former wife) in the head with a baseball bat, leaving her unconscious in a pool of blood, with a skull fracture and other injuries requiring surgery. “Use of a baseball bat in self-defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force,” Shanahan later wrote. “However, Will’s mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident.” When asked about that statement, he walked it back: “I have never believed Will’s attack on his mother was an act of self-defense or justified. I don’t believe violence is appropriate ever, and certainly never any justification for attacking someone with a baseball bat.”

In any case, it’s hard to determine who knew what when in the vetting process. Democrats and the Leftmedia are having a field day slamming Trump for poor vetting, and even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of Trump’s biggest Senate allies, said, “We need to do a better job” on vetting nominees. However, he said, “That’s over. I appreciate his service, but it’s now time to find somebody else.”

That somebody else may permanently be Esper. Like Shanahan, he’s a former defense contractor, but Esper has served as Army secretary since 2017. And Fox News notes his extensive military service: “Esper graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986 — the same year as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He received his commission in the infantry and completed Ranger and Pathfinder training. Esper served on active duty for over a decade. In the early 90s, he served with the 101st Airborne Division in the Gulf War. He later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe. Following his service on active duty, he served in both the Virginia and District of Columbia National Guard and Army Reserve. He retired in 2007.”

Esper also seems to have his pulse on the needs facing the U.S. military in light of the rise in power and challenge from both China and Russia. So assuming his background checks out, Esper could serve the Pentagon well.

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