WASHINGTON — Sen. Jack Reed, the top Armed Services Democrat, will oppose President Trump’s pick to be the next Pentagon policy chief — Anthony Tata – over growing concerns regarding past tweets calling former President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” and other blistering thoughts.
Tata has been nominated as the Pentagon top policy person, considered by many as the third-ranking civilian position. If confirmed, Tata would replace John Rood, who was seen as not loyal to Trump and was ousted in February.
“Senator Reed’s preference is to wait for the hearing process before commenting on nominees,” Chip Unruh, Reed’s press secretary, told POLITICO in a statement. “But in this case there are real warning signs flashing and if this nomination moves forward, Senator Reed will oppose it.”
The momentum seems to be building against Tata as more conspiracy and inflammatory tweets of his become known, including sharing one declaring that Obama was “Manchurian candidate” trying to take down America.
Tata, a retired Army brigadier general, novelist, and Fox News regular, was formally nominated for the senior post last week. The public opposition from Reed is rare on a committee that typically functions through strong, bipartisan consensus.
In a statement, Armed Services Chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) pledged to thoroughly weigh the nomination.
“With all that’s going on around the world — especially as China and Russia act out — the National Defense Strategy is as important as ever,” Inhofe said. “That’s why it’s so important to have well-qualified individuals leading the Pentagon. I look forward to reviewing this nomination closely.”
CNN reported on Friday that Tata has a history of making Islamophobic remarks and derogatory comments toward Democrats, including calling Obama “a terrorist leader” and referring to Islam as “the most oppressive violent religion I know of,” in since-deleted tweets from 2018.
Tata retired from the Army in 2008 after an investigation determined he had affairs with “at least two” women, according to a report from the North Carolina-based News & Observer. Tata was the North Carolina transportation secretary from 2013 to 2015.
The Tata imbroglio comes as concerns are being voiced in the Pentagon about the replacement of career, defense-focused individuals in leadership positions with Trump loyalists — as other longtime experienced persons leave the building.
According to reports, the Trump administration is sending Michael Cutrone to the Pentagon to serve in a behind-the-scenes role vetting Defense Department officials for loyalty to the president.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that the current top civilian leader in charge of special operations forces is leaving before his permanent replacement is confirmed by the Senate.
Thomas Alexander is leaving the Defense Department on June 19 to join the Office of Management and Budget,. He is currently serving as the acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, a position he took on a temporary basis in November.
At least 10 nominees for open posts are waiting on confirmation hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee. In addition to Tata, the list includes Trump’s nominees to be the next Pentagon watchdog and the civilian overseeing U.S. special operations, the post Alexander left.
The concerns at the Pentagon have increased since Trump rehired John McEntee and promoted him to be the new head of the White House Personnel Office. McEntee is Trump’s former body man, but he has been authorized by the President to “purge” anyone not fully embracing Trump’s views, according to news reports
Before McEntee took over the personnel office, Defense Secretary Mark Esper had already made selections for some key positions the White House had cleared.
McEntee restarted the selection process and overrode Esper’s decisions on key positions. The key ones include:
The nomination of the highly-regarded Katie Wheelbarger to be the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security. The White House has announced the nomination, then McEntee said no.
He also killed the nomination of Elaine McCusker, another highly-regarded official, as the Pentagon’s comptroller, also over Esper’s objections. The Senate already had her paperwork.
The two remain at the Pentagon in acting positions.