President Trump announced on Twitter Tuesday that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has withdrawn from consideration to be his permanent defense chief “so that he can devote more time to his family.”
Trump thanked Shanahan “for his outstanding service” and named Mark Esper, current secretary of the U.S. Army, to be the new acting secretary of defense.
Yahoo News reported Monday that Shanahan’s official nomination had been delayed over the FBI investigation into his personal life, including a messy divorce that involved an accusation of domestic violence from his ex-wife, who was arrested as part of the dispute. Shanahan’s withdrawal was announced Tuesday, after at least two other news outlets published articles looking at the events surrounding his divorce.
“Before his divorce, Pat Shanahan’s ex-wife was arrested and charged for domestic violence,” a spokesperson for Shanahan told Yahoo News. “Shanahan asked for the charges to be dropped for the sake of his family and asks that this remain a private matter.”
On Tuesday, USA Today reported that the FBI had been probing a violent 2010 domestic dispute involving Shanahan and his then-wife, who now goes by the name Kimberley Jordinson, as part of its background check.
According to the paper, the incident “escalated into a clash that police said left him with a bloodied nose and hand and her with a blood-stained forearm.”
“Shanahan denied hitting her and told police that she was the aggressor and that she had punched him ‘10 to 20 times,’” according to police records obtained by USA Today. Officers noted that Jordinson’s bloody forearm “appeared consistent with her having attacked her husband” and arrested Jordinson on suspicion of domestic violence.
Prosecutors later dropped the charge, citing a lack of evidence.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Shanahan’s son was arrested after a separate 2011 incident “in which he hit his mother with a baseball bat.”
“Bad things can happen to good families,” Shanahan said in an interview with the Post. “And this is a tragedy, really.”
He said he feared that moving forward with a public confirmation “will ruin my son’s life.”
“The confirmation process should focus on securing our nation against threats, readiness and the future of our military, and ensuring the highest quality care and support for service members and their families,” Shanahan said in a separate statement. “It is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process.”
He added: “My continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority. I would welcome the opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father.”
Trump first announced Shanahan as his pick to lead the Defense Department on May 9. The move appeared set to fill a void left after former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis abruptly resigned late last year.
Shanahan, who was the deputy secretary, has been leading the Pentagon in an acting capacity since Mattis’s departure.
The United States has now been without a confirmed secretary of defense for more than six months, the longest in history.
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