U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C. (Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via Bloomberg)

Trump Praises Acting Defense Chief, Says Shanahan Might Stay On

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is a “wonderful man” who might stay on as Pentagon chief “for a long time.”

The comments, made in Iraq on Wednesday during the president’s first trip to visit troops deployed in a combat zone overseas, were Trump’s strongest endorsement of the deputy who’s taking over after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis departs next week.

Trump Praises Acting Defense Chief, Says Shanahan Might Stay On

Shanahan has never served in the military, but he was a top executive at Boeing Co., the No. 2 U.S. defense contractor, before becoming deputy defense secretary in 2017. Trump called Boeing “a hell of a company” and said Shanahan is a “good buyer” who can eliminate costly overruns on weapons.

“Everybody and his uncle wants that position,” Trump said of the job that Mattis is quitting. “And also, by the way, everybody and her aunt, just so I won’t be criticized for that last statement.”

Mattis announced his resignation after Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria against the advice of the retired Marine general. Trump told Mattis to depart by Jan. 2 after the outgoing defense secretary publicly released a resignation letter criticizing the president’s foreign policy.

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