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McCain, Warren spar with Pentagon nominee on future Lockheed connections

McCain, Warren spar with Pentagon nominee on future Lockheed connections
© Camille Fine

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Meghan McCain: Melania is 'my favorite Trump, by far' Kelly says Trump not likely to extend DACA deadline MORE (R-Ariz.) on Thursday threatened to delay the Lockheed Martin executive in line for the Pentagon‘s top policy job after the nominee side-stepped questions on future conflicts of interest.  

The senior vice president of Lockheed Martin International, John Rood, would not confirm to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGovernment watchdog finds safety gaps in assisted living homes David Crosby: Shared dislike for Trump could reunite Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Dem senators tell Trump he doesn’t have ‘legal authority’ to launch preemptive strike on North Korea MORE (D-Mass.) that he would not seek a waiver that would allow him to participate in matters involving the company in his new role.

Rood, up to be the next undersecretary of Defense for policy, has signed a White House ethics pledge to recuse himself from all decisions involving Lockheed for two years and divest himself from the defense contractor.

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But ethics laws in place allow him to apply for a waiver from that recusal, to possibly be involved in policy discussions that include the sale of Lockheed products to foreign countries.

“Will you commit not to seek such a waiver during your time in office?” Warren asked during a Senate Armed Services Committe hearing.

Rood would only offer that he would live “very scrupulously” by the ethics agreement he signed, but did not rule out the waiver.

“You were responsible for selling Lockheed’s products to other countries,” Warren pressed. “In your new role, you will be responsible for defense policy, including overseeing policy on foreign military sales to those same countries. Will you recuse yourself from policy discussions about the sale of Lockheed products via the foreign military sales and financing programs?”

After Rood again declined to say yes or no, McCain, who is the committee's chairman, warned: “I suggest you answer the question or you're going to have trouble getting through this committee.”

McCain added that he would give Rood the question in writing “because, obviously, you are ducking the answer here.”

McCain on many occasions has criticized the Trump administration’s heavy used of defense industry executives as Pentagon nominees.

“One of my major concerns has been the big five [defense companies] and the rotating back and forth between government and business and this is, kind of, a classic example of why we deserve straightforward answers,” McCain said during the hearing.

The White House in October named Rood to the top Pentagon policy position. He served in several roles during the George W. Bush administration, including acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.