Trump says Shanahan has withdrawn from Defense secretary consideration

Patrick Shanahan, acting U.S. Secretary of Defense, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on April 11, 2019.

Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that he will not nominate acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to hold the position in a permanent capacity. Army Secretary Mark Esper will become acting defense secretary, Trump said. 

“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 wrote in a post on Twitter.

“….I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense. I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!” he wrote in a second tweet.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The announcement came amid reports that an FBI background check was delaying the nomination process. Earlier on Tuesday, Shanahan released a statement related to a 2010 violent domestic incident involving him and his ex-wife. Both Shanahan and his wife, who now goes by Kimberley Jordinson, claimed they were hit by the other.

Shanahan was not charged with any crime and has denied hitting his ex-wife. 

“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,” Shanahan said in a statement provided to USA Today. 

Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark Esper speaks at the Atlantic Council, Washington D.C., May 17, 2019.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia

Esper had widely been discussed as a possible replacement nominee. A spokesman for the Army could not immediately say who would be Esper’s replacement. 

Shanahan ascended to the acting role in the wake of former Defense chief Jim Mattis’ shocking resignation in December. In his resignation letter, Mattis said that disagreements with the president about America’s treatment of both allies and strategic competitors came from beliefs that “are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.”

Esper’s ascension to the top spot in the Pentagon comes at a particularly tumultuous time. The Trump administration has pulled the United States back from global commitments and pushed forward on ambitious projects like the denuclearization of North Korea, a growing military footprint on the southwest border with Mexico and rising tensions with Iran and Venezuela.

— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report. 

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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