President Donald Trump announced about a month ago that he would appoint Patrick Shanahan as his next secretary of defense. It was believed at the time that Shanahan would sail through.
Some Democrats questioned his industry ties — Shanahan is a former Boeing executive — and his backing of Trump’s lunatic deployment of troops to the Mexican border — but he had been confirmed as deputy secretary of defense by a 92-7 before being named acting Pentagon head when Jim Mattis was forced out as defense secretary on January 1.”
But for unexplained reasons, Shanahan’s nomination appears to be in jeopardy. The date for Shanahan’s hearing has yet to be set and, sources tell me, the administration has not even sent his confirmation package to the relevant congressional offices.
“Why it’s taking so long to confirm Trump’s defense secretary choice?” the Military Times asked in recent headline. Here’s an excerpt from the story:
Senate Armed Services Committee officials are waiting on an FBI background check and other formal paperwork from the executive branch before they can move ahead with the process, a move the panel’s chairman hopes will move quickly.
“I would like to do it soon, because I’m the guy who has been yelling and screaming that we have to have this nomination confirmed,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said when asked about Shanahan’s status. “If you don’t have him confirmed, all these people he is dealing with don’t know if they are dealing with the right person.”
NBC also had an interesting story on this topic yesterday. “President Donald Trump appears to be having second thoughts about his choice of Patrick Shanahan as his next secretary of defense and asked several confidants in France last week about alternative candidates, according to four people familiar with the conversations,” the network reported.
So what’s going on?
Shanahan was married to his wife Kim for 22 years but they got divorced on September 27, 2011. There are about 4,000 pages from the Shanahan’s divorce on file at the King County Superior Court in Seattle.
Shanahan’s wife claimed during the proceedings that her husband physically abused her. On one occasion, she said in a statement to the court, Shanahan punched her during a dispute over his suitcase. Trump’s nominee was very secretive about the contents of the suitcase, which apparently aroused suspicion on the part of his former wife.
Shanahan’s wife said feared her husband. On at least one occasion she called for help from one of the couple’s sons. The boy, according to an affidavit, picked up a baseball bat and rushed to his mother’s defense.
I want to emphasize that Shanahan denies the allegations of spousal abuse and the police arrested his former wife for assault. The son disputed the police report in his affidavit and said the cops took his father’s side. However, the son is now allegedly claiming that he made his statement due to coercion.
The Pentagon declined comment. I have made a request to speak to Shanahan’s son and will update this story if I hear from him.
The whole affair is murky but two well-informed sources told me the domestic abuse allegations, true or not, would be enough to expand the FBI’s investigation into Shanahan’s fitness for office. If the allegations are true, that should disqualify him to lead the Pentagon.
A former senior government official told me that traditionally any government appointee who receives a security clearance will be rejected if he or she is determined to have been guilty of domestic abuse. He said domestic abuse is a major red flag not only because it is a serious charge but also because it displays a lack of maturity and even temperament — two qualities that a Pentagon chief should possess in abundance.
A second source, a prominent Washington attorney, told me that no matter what happened between the couple, the details from the divorce filing would “trigger a significant expansion of the FBI’s background investigation of Shanahan. The FBI will need to look at this closely and talk to the nominee, his former spouse, the police department, the son and many other people with knowledge of what happened.
So let me again emphasize that Shanahan may not be guilty of spousal abuse, but the FBI is certainly trying to determine what happened, and that is at least one reason for the delay of his confirmation hearings. It might also be the reason that Trump is considering replacing him.
On the other hand, the second source told me, “Until the Trump administration, domestic violence would get you knocked out from consideration for any job that requires a security clearance. Now it’s possibly a plus.”
He cited the case of Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary. He got the job even though his two ex-wives took out restraining orders on him. “One ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, alleges Porter had choked, punched and emotionally abused her during their five-year marriage,” a USA Today said. “Another ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby, [said] that Porter verbally abused her on their 2009 honeymoon and once dragged her out of the shower.”
Porter, who denied the allegations, was only forced out when Holderness talked to the Daily Mail and provided the newspaper with a photo of herself with a black eye. “During the vetting process many people didn’t want to give Porter clearance but he got through,” the source said. “Someone with that sort of record had never gotten through until the Trump administration.”
So for now, Shanahan’s nomination is in limbo while the FBI finishes its investigation. If reporters want to look into the story, they can call the clerk’s office at the King County Superior Court at 206-296-9300. The Shanahan’s divorce is a public record and easily obtainable.