WASHINGTON ― A confirmation hearing has been scuttled for Anthony Tata, President Donald Trump’s embattled pick for the Pentagon’s top policy job, following stiff opposition to the nomination from Democrats and wavering by some Republicans.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said Thursday he and President Donald Trump agreed on the eve of Tata’s confirmation hearing Thursday to at least delay the nomination. Inhofe had to navigate the White House’s refusal to budge on Tata for weeks, even after CNN reported a series of remarks and tweets that were conspiratorial, anti-Muslim and harshly partisan.
“There are many Democrats and Republicans who didn’t know enough about Anthony Tata to consider him for a very significant position at this time,” Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a statement.
“We didn’t get the required documentation in time; some documents, which we normally get before a hearing, didn’t arrive until yesterday. As I told the President last night, we’re simply out of time with the August recess coming, so it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose to have a hearing at this point, and he agreed.”
A Fox News contributor and staunch ally of the president and a retired Army brigadier general, Tata was nominated for undersecretary of defense for policy, which leads policy development and defense relationships with allies. He has been serving as a senior advisor at the Pentagon.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Republicans were expressing doubts they could support him, including SASC members Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
“You know, I’m still vetting him, but I can’t say that I would be optimistic,” Ernst told the newspaper. Ernst added that she has heard “comments from Iowans who are now retired but have worked with him,” and that she values their feedback.
“I’ve been visiting with him and I’m getting more comfortable with that, but we’ll have an opportunity at a hearing,” Kramer told the newspaper. “We’ll see after that, how the hearing goes.”
Cramer also used Tata’s nomination to vent unrelated frustration over the Pentagon’s opposition to adding the names of 74 sailors who died aboard the U.S.S. Frank Evans to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
SASC Ranking Member Jack Reed, D-R.I., and other Democrats on the panel have come out against the nomination, but it was an open question whether Ernst and other SASC Republicans in tough reelection campaigns, like Sens. Thom Tillis and Martha McSally, would vote to confirm Tata.
Backing Tata would mean defending a presidential pick whose public statements have evinced intolerance to Islam at a time when the military and the rest of the country is reckoning with America’s painful legacy of discrimination.
Tata had called President Barack Obama, falsely, a Muslim and “a terrorist leader,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Maxine Waters, both California Democrats, “have always been the same violent extremists,” and tweeted, “Islam is the most oppressive violent religion that I know of.”
In June, Tata has apologized the Senate for his offensive remarks, saying he “deeply regretted” them.
Democrats, in a letter this week, called on Tata to withdraw and resign from his Pentagon job. Signatories included SASC members Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Tammy Duckworth. D-Ill., among others.
“Nominees should see the value diversity, inclusion, and unity bring to our institutions. Unfortunately, your history of public remarks does not meet this standard,” the lawmakers said in the letter.
Before Thursday’s open hearing, the panel first met July 28 to consider Tata’s nomination in a closed session, a move typically used to review confidential investigative materials. Tata retired from the military in 2009 after an Army inquiry found that he conducted “at least two” adulterous affairs while serving, considered a crime by the military.
The closed hearing was the panel’s first for a nominee since Gen. John Hyten was considered for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff amid sexual misconduct allegations. The panel heard from Hyten and others in closed session and advanced him to Senate confirmation as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefsm, after an Air Force probe found insufficient evidence to file charges.
On Wednesday, civil rights groups held a press conference to call on the Senate to block Tata, calling him an, “anti-Muslim, anti-Black internet troll” for his inflammatory comments and tweets.