Acting Defense secretary distances himself from Boeing controversy

Acting Defense secretary distances himself from Boeing controversy
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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE, who worked for Boeing for 30 years before entering the Pentagon, said on Thursday that he has not spoken to anyone in the Trump administration about the recent string of deadly 737 Max 8 passenger jet crashes.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Shanahan was asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) about Sunday's crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8, which killed all 157 people on board. Another such aircraft flown by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia last October, killing 189 people. 

“I know it’s not a topic of interest today before this proceeding, but it is a topic of interest to work that you’ve done in the past and I’d like to know whether you have spoken about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to anyone in the administration, in the Department of Transportation, or in the White House?” Blumenthal asked.

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“Senator, I’ve not spoken to anyone regarding the 737 Max,” Shanahan replied.

“Have you been briefed at all on any of the problems relating to it?” Blumenthal continued.

“No sir, I have not,” Shanahan answered.

Shanahan also sidestepped a question on whether he was in favor of any investigation that would look into why the software defects that may have caused the crashes were not known or acted upon earlier.

“I firmly believe we should let the regulators investigate the incidents,” he said. “My heart goes out and my condolences to the families and the employees involved in the Lion Air incident and Ethiopian Airlines incident.”

Before President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE nominated him as deputy Defense secretary in March 2017, Shanahan served as the senior vice president of airplane programs at Boeing, where he oversaw the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs.

Trump on Wednesday joined a chorus of officials in other countries by ordering Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft to be grounded “effective immediately.”

Blumenthal on Thursday also pressed Shanahan on an ethics complaint against him regarding accusations the acting Pentagon chief unfairly promoted Boeing while serving as a government official. 

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed the complaint on Wednesday, asking the Department of Defense inspector general to look into accusations that Shanahan “made numerous statements promoting his former employer Boeing and has disparaged the company’s competitors before subordinates at the agency.”

“Do you support such an investigation?” Blumenthal asked during the hearing.

“Yes I do.” Shanahan replied.