President Trump and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), have butted heads on numerous issues this year. The latest issue has both sides up in arms, and both the Senator and the President have been criticized.
As Reuters reported, Sen. McCain, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated that there have been a troubling amount of defense industry executives nominated for Defense Department appointments. After John Rood, the President’s selection for the third top position at the Pentagon, Sen. McCain vowed not to support any future nominees of similar background.
Mr. Rood is a Senior Vice President for Lockheed Martin, the biggest defense contractor based in the United States. He is Mr. Trump’s pick for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, an appointment that is currently under consideration in the Senate. His role at Lockheed deals with the company’s global expansion efforts.
Rood ran into difficulties Thursday while being questioned by the committee. When Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), asked Rood whether or not he would recuse himself on matters that could benefit Lockheed, Rood did not give a definitive answer, he only stated he did not “intend” to participate in those matters.
Sen. Warren and Sen. McCain took issue with the unclear answer, requesting that Mr. Rood submit a written response “because obviously, you are ducking the answer here.”
The discussions come just after Army Secretary Mark Esper was confirmed after he was nominated by Mr. Trump. Esper is a former executive at Raytheon, a major US defense contractor. He agreed to recuse himself from matters beneficial to Raytheon.
Other Pentagon officials chosen by President Trump have previous ties to Boeing and Textron Systems. Defense contractors such as these, Lockheed, and Raytheon, it is anticipated, will reap benefits from next year’s increased defense spending. The share prices of these companies have already increased.
It is these connections that has some members of Congress concerned that defense industry insiders may be infiltrating key Department of Defense positions.
“From this point forward, I will not support any further nominees with that background,” Sen. McCain said.
His statement has received both anger and praise. On one hand, this is another of many positions in opposition to the President. On the other hand, he’s sticking with the President’s former commitment to “drain the swamp.”
Either way, he has declared his intentions. Given his declaration, two possibilities are presented. Members of the Senate could move to have Sen. McCain removed from the committee, or President Trump could move to find choices that are less likely to receive opposition. How the President or the Senate leadership reacts to Sen. McCain’s announcement remains to be seen.
Regardless of how one feels about Sen. McCain’s decision, it raises important questions. For one: are these corporate Washington insiders capable of rendering unbiased, ethical decisions when they are faced with choices that could benefit their current and former companies?
Sen. McCain has vowed not to support any of President Trump’s corporate-based appointments to the Department of Defense. Is McCain trying to sabotage the Trump presidency?
Charging the Oversight Committee with assessing the decisions made by these defense industry executives may ensure that their involvement in critical decisions on matters that would benefit their associates are legitimate.
Hopefully, President Trump and Sen. McCain can come to an agreement on future appointments. The issue does, however, present a challenge. When considering appointments and nominations, where does one draw the line when it comes to federal appointments of corporate executives with potential relationships to “the swamp?” It doesn’t lend itself to an easy answer.