McCain threatens to block Trump’s deputy Defense nominee

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) threatened to block President Trump’s nominee for deputy secretary of Defense after being unsatisfied with his answers on how to respond to Russian aggression.

“Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning. Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee,” McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, enunciating each word.

McCain was chastising Patrick Shanahan, who had his confirmation hearing to be deputy Defense secretary months after he was announced as the nominee. The hearing for Shanahan, until this month an executive at defense contractor Boeing, has been delayed as he worked to untangle from his financial obligations.

{mosads}What started as a genial hearing with neither McCain nor the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), reading opening statements to speed up the proceedings, quickly soured when McCain asked about Shanahan’s answers to advanced policy questions about Ukraine.

The question was whether Shanahan supported providing lethal defensive aid to Ukraine, which has been fighting separatists backed by Russia.

“The provision of lethal defensive equipment as part of our already robust security assistance program is an option I plan to look at closely if I am confirmed,” Shanahan wrote. “I do not have access to classified assessments of the performance of the Ukrainian and Russian militaries in the course of the conflict, and particularly the impact of the security assistance we have provided thus far.”

McCain, a longtime proponent of giving the Ukrainians weapons, was not pleased.

“Inexplicably, you responded by saying you have to look at the issue,” McCain said. “That’s not satisfactory. Mr. Shanahan, would you wish to abridge or amend your statement?”

Shanahan responded that he does support providing lethal weapons to the Ukrainians.

McCain said he was “glad to hear” that but warned Shanahan against waffling again.

“I’m glad to hear you changed your opinion from what was submitted, but it’s still disturbing to me,” McCain said. “It’s still disturbing to me after all these years that you would say you have to look at the issue. Have you not been aware of the issue? Have you not been aware of the actions of the Senate Armed Services Committee? Have you not been aware of the thousands of people that have been killed by [Russian President] Vladimir Putin? Have you missed all that in your duties at one of the major defense corporations of this country?”

Later, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) asked how he would respond to Russia’s violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Shanahan responded by saying he believes there should be a response, but that he does not have a personal opinion on how.

“I think the Russians are adversarial,” he continued. “I think through the whole of government, we need to deal with their — whether we call it aggression or their disruption to our interests. I, at this point, don’t have any specific recommendations. If confirmed, I will spend a significant amount of time dealing with Russia.”

That response again drew McCain’s ire.

“Mr. Shanahan, you’re not making me happy,” he said. “We expect straightforward answers and that you just ducked at basically every question that Sen. Fischer asked you.

“Now, I’m telling you, Mr. Shanahan, I believe in the Constitution of the United States, which says that the Congress of the United States shall provide advice and consent. I’m not going to sit here and watch you duck every question and expect that everything is going to go smoothly. It’s not.” 

Tags Deb Fischer Jack Reed John McCain
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