“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.
“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 added.
Trump announced his intention to nominate Shanahan on May 9, but the paperwork necessary to begin confirmation hearings hadn’t been filed.
“I can’t tell you how long the process is supposed to work,” Shanahan responded when asked why it is taking so long for his paperwork to be sent from the White House.
When asked last week if he had assurances from Trump that he was still the President’s pick to lead the Defense Department, Shanahan said he is “in contact with the White House” and expects the process to be completed shortly.
“I’m in contact with the White House. We’re done with our paperwork, expect to have the process completed here shortly,” he said.
While Esper will replace Shanahan as acting defense secretary, Trump did not specify whether he will also become the new nominee to take on the role full-time.
Esper’s name had previously been floated before Trump nominated Shanahan and his allies have been pushing for the President to nominate him over the acting secretary for weeks.
Asked about Esper’s interest in the secretary of defense role, his spokesman pointed to a December statement in which the Army secretary told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram: “I’m very happy and privileged to be secretary of the Army.”
A senior GOP aide on the Senate Armed Services Committee told CNN Tuesday that naming Esper to replace Shanahan was “a good move by the administration” and said he would be “a very smart pick” should the White House choose to nominate him.
“He would have a very smooth confirmation,” the aide said, adding that Esper is “the most qualified in the Department.”
The aide also told CNN that most committee staff are relieved about Trump’s announcement.
“We don’t have to go through that confirmation battle,” they said, referring to Shanahan.
This story is breaking and will be updated.