Trump’s Controversial Pick for Pentagon Job Has Hearing Canceled

The Senate Armed Services Committee canceled a hearing scheduled for Thursday morning on the controversial nomination of Anthony Tata, a retired Army brigadier general and Fox News commentator, to be the Pentagon’s policy chief.

Committee Chairman James Inhofe said the panel didn’t have enough information to hold the hearing as scheduled, but some Senate Republicans who asked not to be identified said Tata doesn’t have enough support to get the post.

Two people familiar with the move said President Donald Trump may appoint Tata to fill the job of undersecretary of defense for policy in an acting position.

Tata’s nomination has been dogged by controversy over his past remarks, including derogatory comments about Islam and his assertion that former President Barack Obama was a terrorist leader.

Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said members needed more information.

“There are many Democrats and Republicans who didn’t know enough about Anthony Tata to consider him for a very significant position at this time,” Inhofe said in a statement. He said he told Trump that “we’re simply out of time with the August recess coming, so it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose to have a hearing at this point, and he agreed.”

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman later told reporters that “in the meantime, General Tata will remain a senior adviser in the office” of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Hoffman declined to disclose “his day-to-day issues that he’s working on.”

‘Out of Character’

The top Democrat on the committee, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, said, “It’s fair to say members on both sides of the aisle have raised serious questions about this nominee. Chairman Inhofe did the right thing here, and it’s clear this nomination isn’t going anywhere without a full, fair, open hearing.”

Tata’s previous remarks prompted a number of anti-discrimination groups to publicly call on the Senate to reject his nomination.

CNN in June reported that Tata promoted a conspiracy theory claiming that a former CIA director sent a coded Twitter post calling for the assassination of Trump in 2018. He also railed against what he called a “deep state cabal” working to undermine the president. He later apologized for his anti-Muslim tweets, saying they were “out of character.”

Before the hearing was canceled, civil rights and Muslim-advocacy groups called on lawmakers to reject Tata’s nomination.

“There is only one word that describes Anthony Tata’s suitability for this job: unfit,” said Scott Simpson, the public advocacy director of Muslim Advocates, in a statement on Wednesday.

The developments on Thursday follow a handful of tumultuous nominations by the Trump administration for top defense posts.

Former Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan withdrew his nomination as permanent defense secretary last year amid questions over a messy divorce. Air Force General John Hyten’s nomination as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was roiled by allegations that he sexually assaulted a subordinate in a hotel in 2017, though he was confirmed for the post.

Tata, a West Point graduate who retired from the Army in 2009 after 28 years on active duty, has publicly advocated for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and Syria and replacing them with private contractors -- a controversial view in the eyes of many military and policy professionals.

Since his retirement from the Army in 2009, Tata has served as the secretary of North Carolina’s Transportation Department, the chief operations officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools and the superintendent of the Wake County public schools system in North Carolina. He has also written several thrillers.

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