Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan steps down, withdraws from Cabinet consideration

Patrick Shanahan, the acting secretary of defense who President Donald Trump said would be tapped to take over the job permanently, is stepping down and withdrawing from consideration, Trump said Tuesday.

“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 tweeted.

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, a former Raytheon executive, will take Shanahan's place as acting defense secretary, Trump said.

The announcement came within minutes of The Washington Post publishing a story that outlined a series of alleged domestic violence incidents within Shanahan’s family.

Shanahan spoke to The Washington Post on Monday and Tuesday about several domestic violence incidents, including the arrest of Shanahan’s wife after she punched him in the face and, in a separate incident, the arrest of his then-teenage son after hitting his mother with a baseball bat.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan
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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks to members of the news media after a classified briefing for members of Congress on Iran, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, left, speaks with troops near McAllen, Texas, about the military’s role in support of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to secure the Southwest border. At right is Kevin McAleenan, acting DHS secretary. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan listens, Wednesday May 1, 2019, during a House Appropriations subcommittee on budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
El secretario de Defensa interino Patrick Shanahan habla con la prensa en el Pentágono, Washington, 19 de abril de 2019. (AP Foto/Patrick Semansky)
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens on Friday, April 19, 2019, at the Department of State in Washington. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan appears before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington , Thursday, April 11, 2019, on the proposed Space Force. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump, second from right, flanked by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, second from left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, right, speaks during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019. At left is Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, left, talks with International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Director-General and Chief Executive John Chipman ahead of the first plenary session of the 18th IISS Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore, Saturday, June 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shakes hands with U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan prior to their meeting in Tokyo, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool)

Last week, NBC News reported that Trump was having second thoughts about Shanahan as his next secretary of defense and had recently asked several confidants about alternative candidates for the key Cabinet post.

The White House announced May 9 that Trump had decided to nominate Shanahan, who has served as acting defense secretary since January. But the White House never formally submitted Shanahan's nomination to the Senate.

While in Normandy, France, 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 any suggestions for different candidates, four people familiar with the conversations told NBC News last week.

Those people said Esper was discussed as a possible replacement nominee should Trump change his mind about Shanahan.

Esper has served as Army Secretary since November 2017. He was previously a senior executive in government relations at the Raytheon Company and an executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center. He also worked as an executive as the Aerospace Industries Association and as national security adviser for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

NBC News reported last week that the FBI process for updating Shanahan's security clearance was not yet complete. Shanahan has had a security clearance as the acting secretary and the deputy defense secretary prior to that.

Shanahan had been serving as acting Pentagon chief since former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned at the end of December over a string of policy differences with Trump.

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