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 nominates ambassador to Turkey Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Top US general: Trump wrong on Syria pullout, ISIS defeat 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 ReedPapering over climate change impacts is indefensible Why Democrats are pushing for a new nuclear policy GOP chairman: US military may have to intervene in Venezuela if Russia does 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 WarrenNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Poll: Sanders, Biden seen as most popular second choices in Dem primary 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 ErnstPush for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 Ivanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation On The Money: Negotiators aiming to reach deal Monday night | Why border talks stalled | Treasury calls reports on dip in tax refunds 'misleading' | Cuomo, Trump to discuss SALT deduction cap 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 TillisBusiness, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration GOP senator dedicates heart photo to wife from Senate floor for Valentine's Day A year since Parkland: we have a solution 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 InhofeOn The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency Foreign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' 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."