Trump expected to nominate Esper as Defense chief

Trump expected to nominate Esper as Defense chief
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE formally nominated Mark EsperMark EsperLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Overnight 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 Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall MORE, currently the secretary of the Army, as Defense secretary, according to multiple reports.

The president made the official announcement Friday evening Esper as acting Defense chief earlier this week after 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 stepped down from the role and withdrew his nomination to lead the Pentagon.

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Esper, who was confirmed by the Senate 89-6 in the fall of 2017, is a former infantry officer and previously served as a top executive at the defense contractor Raytheon.

Shanahan served as acting Defense secretary since the beginning of the year, following the departure of James MattisJames Norman MattisLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Overnight 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 MORE.

Trump had said he planned to nominate Shanahan to lead the Pentagon permanently, but never officially sent the nomination to the Senate.

The president announced Tuesday that Shanahan had withdrawn from consideration to lead the Pentagon on a permanent basis because the former Boeing executive wanted to "devote more time to his family."

The announcement came as reports emerged detailing multiple instances of past domestic violence involving Shanahan's family.

The lack of a permanent leader at the Department of Defense comes amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Iran shot down a U.S. Navy surveillance drone this week, with the two sides disputing where it occurred. Tehran has said the drone was flying over Iranian airspace, while American officials have been adamant the aircraft was in international airspace.

Trump then tweeted Friday morning that the U.S. was "cocked and loaded" to carry out a retaliatory strike against Iran before he pulled back at the last minute upon learning there could be 150 casualties.