Trump Rejects Defense Secretary Reports, Hints Who May Fill Role

President Trump has denied that he is considering former Democratic presidential candidate Jim Webb to become the next Defense Secretary.

The Washington Examiner and other outlets reported that representatives from Vice President Mike Pence’s office reached out to Webb concerning the Defense Secretary vacancy.

Besides Webb’s failed presidential run in 2016, he is a former U.S. Senator from Virginia and he worked as a secretary of the Navy under President Reagan.

From the Washington Examiner:

Webb has been a staunch critic of the Iraq War, and the position comes as President Trump announced his intent to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria. That move prompted Mattis to submit his resignation last month, and as of Jan. 1 Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is serving as acting secretary of defense.

Webb appears to have more common ground with Trump. For example, Webb opposed the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal, which put restraints on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions.

While President Trump did not say whether or not representatives were indeed reaching out to Webb’s office, Trump rejected that he was personally considering Webb for the role. Trump said Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is doing a “great job” inferring he could continue in the role.

The president said the report “regarding Jim Webb being considered as the next Secretary of Defense is FAKE NEWS.”

“I’m sure he is a fine man, but I don’t know Jim, and never met him,” Trump continued. “Patrick Shanahan, who is Acting Secretary of Defense, is doing a great job!”

Shanahan is a former Boeing executive and would have to be confirmed to the post by the United States Senate, should he receive the formal nomination.

As Yahoo reports, Shanahan has announced his foreign affairs focus would be “China, China, China”:

Soon after arriving at the Pentagon, Shanahan told colleagues to focus on the National Defense Strategy, a Mattis-era review that highlights “Great Power competition” with Russia and China.

“In 2019, the National Defense Strategy remains our guide. America’s military strength remains our focus,” Shanahan said in a New Year’s message on Twitter.

A defense official added that Shanahan had told colleagues a major concern would be China.

“While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China,” the official said.