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Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report

The promotions of two top female generals were delayed in 2020 because top Department of Defense officials worried that former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE would accuse the Pentagon of playing politics and nominating them due to their gender, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

According to the Times, former Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperFemale generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command New Army hair and grooming standards allow for ponytails, buzz cuts and earrings MORE and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyFemale generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Biden emphasizes diversity in first visit to Pentagon Pentagon: Extremist groups recruit from military MORE, feared that Trump would derail the promotions of Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson. The two officials reportedly decided to delay the pair's promotions to four-star commands until after the November election, thinking that President BidenJoe BidenKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE would be more open to promoting the generals.

“They were chosen because they were the best officers for the jobs, and I didn’t want their promotions derailed because someone in the Trump White House saw that I recommended them or thought D.O.D. was playing politics,” Esper told the newspaper. “This was not the case. They were the best qualified. We were doing the right thing.”

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Milley likely would have made the recommendations had Trump won the November election, the Times reports, but he expected the two to have an easier time with the selection process under a Biden White House.

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for further comment. 

Van Ovost and Richardson are set to be recommended in the coming weeks by Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video Pentagon chief underscores safety of COVID-19 vaccine amid some service members' refusal Biden to speak with Saudi king 'soon' as pressure builds for Khashoggi report MORE to take over U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Southern Command, respectively, two posts previously held by men.

Esper's characterization of the delay was disputed by former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who told the Times that it centered on "timing considerations, not that they were women."

The Defense Department was the subject of another cultural battle in the waning months of the Trump administration due to Democrats' push to rename U.S. military installations named after figures from the Confederacy, such as Virginia's Fort Lee. Trump fiercely resisted the push and vetoed the annual National Defense Authorization Act in 2020 over the issue, forcing the Senate to issue its first veto override of Trump's presidency.