Trump expected to nominate Esper as Defense chief

Trump expected to nominate Esper as Defense chief
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE formally nominated Mark Esper, 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 ShanahanOvernight Defense: US shoots down Iranian drone | Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia | Trump mulls Turkey sanctions | Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet 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 MattisWatchdog: Former Pentagon spokeswoman misused staff for personal errands Senate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment 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The president announced Tuesday that Shanahan had withdrawn from consideration to lead the Pentagon on a permanent basis because the former Boeing executive wanted to "devote more time to his family."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.