Admiral defends record after coming under investigation in 'Fat Leonard' scandal

Admiral defends record after coming under investigation in 'Fat Leonard' scandal
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The admiral nominated to take command of U.S. forces in South America defended his record in the Navy on Tuesday after coming under questioning from Democrats about his involvement in what’s known as the “Fat Leonard” scandal.

Vice Adm. Craig Faller, who currently serves as Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump, in reversal, calls for Pentagon to raise budget request to 0B: reports Rubio: We don’t need direct evidence crown prince ‘ordered the code red’ on Khashoggi killing Kushner advised Saudi crown prince after Khashoggi killing: report MORE’s senior military adviser, said investigations have cleared him of all wrongdoing in his interactions with a contractor that has pleaded guilty to bribery and defrauding the military.

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“After a lengthy and thorough investigation by several different law enforcement organizations, I was cleared of all wrongdoing,” Faller said. “Never solicited, accepted or asked for a gift from Glenn Marine Defense, and every decision I made, event I attended, I had ethics counsel review.”

Faller was responding to a question from Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedYemen resolution picks up crucial support in Senate Senate to get briefing on Saudi Arabia that could determine sanctions Dem senator: Trump's Saudi statement 'stunning window' into his 'autocratic tendencies' MORE (D-R.I.) during the committee’s hearing on his nomination to become the new commander of U.S. Southern Command (Southcom).

The “Fat Leonard” scandal, the worst corruption scandal in Navy history, centers around Malaysian contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, who bribed scores of officers with extravagant parties, luxury gifts, prostitutes and more in exchange for classified information to win lucrative contracts for his Glenn Defense Marine Asia company.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Faller was under investigation for three years by the Justice Department and Navy for his interactions with Francis and was cleared of wrongdoing.

Among Faller’s interactions with Francis, according to the Post, was a lavish 2004 Christmas party in Hong Kong that included scantily clad women dressed as “Santa’s little helpers.” Francis told investigators that he paid for a prostitute to entertain Faller at the party and that he also gave Faller gifts and dinners in later years, according to the Post.

On Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats wise to proceed cautiously on immigration Strategist behind Warren's political rise to meet with O'Rourke: report Warren fell for ‘Trump trap’ with DNA test, says progressive MORE (D-Mass.) hammered Faller on the report.

“I just have to say, this does not pass the smell test for me,” she said.

Faller replied that an ethics counselor reviewed the dinner in question.

“And there was nothing about this dinner that set off any alarm bells in your mind that it either might not meet ethical standards or at least give the appearance of impropriety from the outside?” Warren interjected.

Faller said it did not set off alarm bells.

“Nothing unprofessional, untoward that I witnessed at the dinner,” he said. “The ethics counselor actually attended the dinner.”

Warren replied that she doesn’t think Faller displayed good judgment at the time. She also slammed Faller over the party’s objectification of women.

Faller replied that both male and female officers attended the dinner.

“Every decision I have made in my nearly 40 decades of service has been tried to be through the best ethical lens,” Faller replied. “One of the benchmarks I use is with my wife of 34 years and two grown daughters, if they were present or watching me or saw it on video, would they be embarrassed or what I have discredited them. And I can look you in the eye and the committee and say I believe I passed that benchmark.”

Republican senators came to Faller’s defense. Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa’s Ernst will run for reelection in 2020 Grassley open to legislation making it tougher for Trump to impose tariffs on national security grounds Special committee votes down budget reforms MORE (R-Iowa) reiterated that Faller was cleared by the Navy and Justice Department, saying “the media doesn’t control our justice system.”

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense MORE (R-N.C.) said it appears Faller handled the incident “by the book” and that revisiting it “would be a waste of time here.”

Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump, in reversal, calls for Pentagon to raise budget request to 0B: reports Inhofe tells military crowd: 'Don't trust the media' GOP senators introduce bill to give Trump billion for border wall MORE (R-Okla.) appeared to apologize to Faller for the line of questioning about the scandal, closing the hearing by thanking “Adm. Faller for your tolerance, and I apologize to your family."