Pentagon chief says military will not 'become politicized' amid USS McCain questions

Pentagon chief says military will not 'become politicized' amid USS McCain questions
© UPI Photo

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary MORE insisted Friday that the military will not "become politicized" as he faced continued questions about a White House order to keep the USS John S. McCain “out of sight” during President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Louisiana's Democratic governor forced into runoff Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China MORE’s visit to Japan.

Speaking at a news conference in Singapore, Shanahan was asked whether he shares Trump’s assessment that whoever gave the order was “well-meaning.”

“Our business is to run military operations and not to become politicized,” Shanahan replied. “I'll wait until I get a full explanation of the facts before I’ll pass judgment on the situation, but our job is to run the military. And I would not have moved the ship. I would not have given that direction.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump has faced frequent criticisms of politicizing the military. Shanahan, who has been nominated to be Defense secretary full-time, was already expected to face questions about politicization during his confirmation hearing, questions that are expected to mount following the USS John S. McCain incident.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday night that the White House Military Office sent an email to the Navy requesting the guided missile destroyer be kept “out of sight” during Trump’s visit to the Yokosuka Naval Base on Memorial Day. Other news outlets have since confirmed the story.

Trump said Thursday he "didn't know anything about" the decision to obscure the ship during his trip to Japan, but defended the reported decision as "well-meaning." The president went on to criticize the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRemembering leaders who put country above party Graham-Trump rollercoaster hits dizzying speed McSally says Senate taking 'serious look' at Trump call unlike 'partisan' House MORE (R-Ariz.) for his vote that helped torpedo GOP efforts to repeal ObamaCare in 2017, something Trump has continued to criticize McCain for months after his funeral.

Shanahan has also denied being aware of the order. On Friday, the acting Defense secretary reiterated that he asked his chief of staff to “look into” the incident, but noted “that’s different than saying launch a formal investigation.”

Shanahan said his chief of staff has already done a “quick” and “not exhaustive” search of emails sent to the Pentagon’s executive office and found that “we received none” related to the order.

Shanahan said he also asked his chief of staff to talk to the 7th Fleet, the chief of Naval operations and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

“As soon as he comes back and says 'here are some facts regarding the situation' — and I would expect, given this has been going on for 36 hours, I’ll give you an update, and it’ll probably be tomorrow or something,” Shanahan said.