President Trump called a New York Times report claiming he is considering former Democrat Virginia Sen. Jim Webb for defense secretary to replace Jim Mattis “fake news.”
“The story in the New York Times regarding Jim Webb being considered as the next Secretary of Defense is FAKE NEWS. I’m sure he is a fine man, but I don’t know Jim, and never met him. Patrick Shanahan, who is Acting Secretary of Defense, is doing a great job!” Trump tweeted Friday:
The story in the New York Times regarding Jim Webb being considered as the next Secretary of Defense is FAKE NEWS. I’m sure he is a fine man, but I don’t know Jim, and never met him. Patrick Shanahan, who is Acting Secretary of Defense, is doing a great job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2019
The Times, citing an official, reported representatives for Vice President Mike Pence and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, had reached out to Webb.
Trump’s tweet was also a show of support for Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who is currently filling the role of defense secretary and is also reportedly under consideration for the job.
Various Trump allies, including Laura Ingraham, have reportedly lobbied for Webb due to his world views on military restraint. Webb is a critic of the Iraq War and opposed the Obama administration’s interventions in Libya and Syria.
However, other Trump allies question the wisdom of picking a Democrat for the position, as well as someone who has a strong personality and an independent streak.
However, some who know Webb are skeptical he would be a good fit. While he would have the experience for the job, they say he also has an independent streak.
“There are a lot of advantages out of that, but there is also a big danger,” said Jim Hanson, president of the Security Studies Group. “Webb’s an arrogant bastard. That doesn’t always work. [Rex] Tillerson was also an arrogant bastard.”
“Trump needs an ally. Tillerson and Mattis both didn’t agree with him on his foreign policy agenda. They were almost the opposition to Trump. He needs someone who isn’t going to fight him on things,” he added.
Other names being floated to the White House include Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), Army Secretary Mark Esper, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane.