Trump may have doubts about Shanahan as secretary of defense


WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump seems to have doubts about his choice of Patrick Shanahan as the next Secretary of Defense and questioned several confidants in Normandy last week about alternative candidates, according to four people close to the talks.

On May 9, the White House announced that Trump had decided to appoint Shanahan, Acting Secretary of Defense since January. But the White House has not yet formally submitted Shanahan's candidacy to the Senate.

While he was in Normandy last week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Trump asked at least three people what they thought of Shanahan and if they had suggestions for different candidates, have said the four people aware of the conversations.

They said Army Secretary Mark Esper would have been nominated as a replacement if Trump decided to withdraw his announcement from Shanahan. Esper was one of the candidates Trump had previously considered for the position of Secretary of Defense.

Asked Tuesday by NBC News about Shanahan's appointment, Trump said he "had it officially released" weeks ago and that the interim secretary "must follow the process."

A spokesman for Shanahan declined to comment.


Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan

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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks to members of the media after a classified briefing for Congressmen on Iran on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Capitol Hill, Washington. (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, left, talks to soldiers near McAllen, Texas about the role of the military in supporting the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to secure the border South West. Right, Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of DHS. (AP Photo / Robert Burns)

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan listens on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, to a meeting of the House Credits Subcommittee on the Budget Hearing at Capitol Hill, Washington. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin)

The secret of defense between Patrick Shanahan and the Pentagon, Washington, April 19, 2019. (AP Foto / Patrick Semansky)

Acting Secretary of State for Defense Patrick Shanahan, speaking on condition of listening to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Friday, April 19, 2019 at the Department of Defense. State in Washington. (AP photo / Sait Serkan Gurbuz)

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan appears before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, April 11, 2019, on the Space Force project. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump, second from right, accompanied by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, second from left, and President of Chief of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, right, at the same time. a meeting with military leaders in the White House Cabinet Room in Washington on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Left, the Air Force Chief of Staff, the General David Goldfein. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, left, speaks with John Chipman, Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in anticipation of the first plenary session of the 18th IISS Shangri-la Dialogue, annual forum on defense and security Asia, in Singapore, Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Photo AP / Yong Teck Lim)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shakes the hand of US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan before their meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (Photo AP / Koji Sasahara, Pool)



Last month, White House officials told allies that Shanahan's official candidacy would be sent to Congress on May 18. The Pentagon's Shanahan team was waiting to receive it late last week, according to two defense officials.

People familiar with the President's conversations about Shanahan last week said he had not explained what made him think about his decision. But, they said, he made it clear that he was wondering if there was another option.

"There is no champion," said a person close to Trump about Shanahan. "Nobody fights for him."

A US official said the FBI process for updating Shanahan's security clearance was not yet complete. Shanahan had obtained a security clearance as Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense before. The FBI's current review is an update of its existing authorization, officials said.

The personal solicitation of Trump's opinions on alternatives to Shanahan does not mean that he will ultimately choose another candidate. The president often asks helpers and confidants to give his opinion to a member of staff whom he doubted at the moment, without this person being immediately driven out.

But a time lag between an announcement that Trump intends to name someone for a job and an official appointment has sometimes meant the end of a candidate. Trump publicly announced that he had recommended his former presidential rival, Herman Cain, to sit on the Federal Reserve Board, before going back after questions about Cain's qualifications for this position.


Herman Cain through the years

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Herman Cain, President of the National Restaurant Association, during an interview in Chicago on Wednesday, May 13, 1998. (AP Photo / Michael S. Green)

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At other times, the White House formally submitted an application to the Senate and Trump later withdrew his choice, as in April, when he overthrew Ron Vitiello's course at the head of the immigration department and Customs, because he wanted to go further. direction."

According to the Partnership Appointment Officer for the Public Service, six candidates chosen by Trump are waiting for their official nomination. The list includes Shanahan, Barbara Barrett as Secretary of the Air Force and Mark Morgan as Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Shanahan was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to meet with some of the Senators of the Armed Forces Committee, including Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va. And Thom Tillis, R-Nc.

Shanahan was not Trump's first choice for the nomination, officials and congress officials said. Among Trump's concerns was Shanahan's lack of television and television presence, which he said should be conveyed by a secretary of defense, according to people who discussed the issue with him. President. Trump hesitated for months over the opportunity to choose Shanahan, officials said.

They claimed that he had settled in Shanahan after several Trump allies in Congress and outside the White House urged him to hold this post permanently because an acting secretary is not perceived as enjoying the full confidence of the president.

The announcement of Shanahan's appointment on May 9 was announced by White House Press Attaché, Sarah Sanders, on Twitter. "Based on his outstanding service to the country and his demonstrated abilities, President Trump intends to appoint Patrick M. Shanahan as Secretary of Defense," wrote Sanders. "Acting Secretary Shanahan has proven in recent months that he is no longer qualified to lead the Defense Department, and he will continue to do a great job."

While Shanahan has trouble getting congressional allies or completely conquering the president, he has enjoyed the support of at least one senior White House official, National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Bolton supported Shanahan in part, officials said, as he considered him a person who would accept anything Trump would want. Bolton has clashed with former Defense Secretary James Mattis on a host of issues and has welcomed his departure from the administration.

"Bolton is the big winner if Shanahan gets it," said the person close to Trump.

A spokesman for Bolton said he still supported Shanahan.

A former senior administration official who remains close to the White House said that one of the reasons for the delay in Shanahan's appointment is that it has been harder than expected to unravel Shanahan's his tenure as an officer of Boeing and his other previous commercial relationships.

Shanahan's defense of the Pentagon's contract process for a $ 10 billion federal contract for the construction of its Common Defense Infrastructure Program, or JEDI, could also raise questions both on Capitol Hill and with the president, said the manager.

Congress members voiced concerns over the contract, which critics say was tailored for one company – Amazon, a company Trump has regularly criticized. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is waiting for the Department of Defense's responses on the contracting program. "The Jedi thing is definitely in the minds," said a former head of the administration.

In the five weeks since Trump announced that Shanahan was his choice, it was a public day between the two men.

Shanahan differs from the president in saying that North Korea's recent short-range ballistic missile tests violate United Nations resolutions. "It was short-range missiles and a violation," Shanahan told reporters recently.

Two days earlier, at a press conference in Japan, Trump had stated that the tests did not constitute a violation. "My people think it could have been a violation," said Trump. "I see things differently."

At about the same time, Shanahan also announced that his staff would investigate a request from the White House asking the Navy to keep the USS John McCain out of sight of the President during his visit to Japan. "I would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot such as Senator McCain," Shanahan said.

Trump, however, described the request as "well-intentioned" and explained clearly, as he has repeated many times, what he felt for the late Arizona Senator, John McCain. "I was in no way a big fan of John McCain," said Trump.

Shanahan, who has no military experience, subsequently announced that he would not order an investigation by an Inspector General.

Shanahan served as the deputy of former Secretary Mattis until his resignation in late December, due to a series of political differences with Trump. At the time, Trump hailed the rise of Shanahan as the acting secretary, the "very talented" caller.

"Patrick has a long list of accomplishments when he was vice president and previously Boeing," writes Trump on Twitter. "He will be great!"


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