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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 McCainSinema invokes McCain in Senate acceptance speech Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — Medicaid expansion gets extra boost from governors' races | Utah's expansion to begin April 1 | GOP lawmaker blames McCain for Dems winning House Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump's Armistice Day trip marked by controversy | US ends aerial refueling to Saudi coalition in Yemen | Analysts identify undeclared North Korean missile bases 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 WarrenFormer Army paratrooper and congressional candidate Richard Ojeda files papers to run for president Kellyanne Conway responds to idea of Clinton 2020 campaign Schumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress 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.