White House considering Jim Webb as Mattis replacement: report

The Trump administration is considering Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia and Navy secretary under former President Reagan, as the next Defense secretary, according to The New York Times.

An unnamed official told the Times that Vice President Pence and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyDemocrats file brief against Trump, 'the Framers' worst nightmare' Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Trump trial poses toughest test yet for Roberts MORE have reached out to Webb, while a senior Pentagon official also told the newspaper that Webb’s name had been circulating in the White House.

A Pentagon spokesperson referred The Hill to the White House for comment, stating that the Defense Department "continues to focus on the defense of our great nation." A White House spokesperson said there were no personnel announcements at this time, declining to comment further.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE is searching for a new Defense secretary after James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Trump called top military brass 'a bunch of dopes and babies' in 2017: book Maxine Waters: Republicans 'shielding' Trump 'going to be responsible for dragging us to war' MORE announced last month that he'd be resigning from the role. Mattis resigned following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.

Trump, fuming over Mattis’s critical resignation letter, then pushed him out two months earlier than initially planned.

Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanEsper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall MORE, a former Boeing executive and deputy Defense secretary since July 2017, is currently serving as acting Defense secretary. Trump has indicated he is in no rush to find a permanent replacement, saying Shanahan “could be there for a long time."

Several names that had previously been floated for the position have since taken themselves out of the running or are seen as unlikely following Trump’s decision on Syria. Trump is also considering a drawdown in Afghanistan that is opposed by military leadership.

Webb’s views on the Middle East align more closely with Trump’s. He was an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War while he served in the Senate.

Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968 and went on to serve in Vietnam as a platoon commander for the Marines. Wounded twice in Vietnam, he was awarded the Navy’s second-highest decoration, the Navy Cross.

Reagan appointed Webb to be an assistant Defense secretary in 1984 and then Navy secretary in 1987. He resigned a year later in disagreement over budget cuts and a reduction in the size of the Navy.

He later switched political parties and in 2006, was elected to his first and only term as a senator from Virginia.

Webb also had a short-lived run in the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential election. His campaign made headlines in October 2015 when he alluded to killing an enemy in Vietnam when asked during a debate who he was most proud to have as an enemy.

“I would have to say the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he’s not around right now to talk to,” Webb said.

— Updated 4:57 p.m.