Trump installs Tata at DOD without Senate approval

By Tony Bertuca / August 3, 2020 at 11:26 AM

President Trump has made Anthony Tata the Pentagon's acting No. 2 policy official, despite the withdrawal of his official nomination amid concerns from Senate lawmakers who abruptly canceled Tata's confirmation hearing last week.

Tata, a retired Army brigadier general and a regular guest on Fox News, had been nominated to be the Pentagon's under secretary of defense for policy. But his nomination ran aground after 2018 tweets were revealed in which he called former President Obama a Muslim and "terrorist leader." Tata also referred to Islam as "the most oppressive violent religion I know of."

Tata apologized, but was castigated by Democrats, lost support from former military officials and saw his nomination stall among Senate Republicans. The Senate Armed Services Committee canceled his confirmation hearing less than two hours before it was slated to begin.

Now, Trump has named Tata the official performing the duties of the deputy under secretary of defense for policy, reporting to James Anderson, who is the Senate-confirmed official in that position, but is serving as acting under secretary of defense for policy.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) issued a statement backing Trump’s authority to install Tata in an acting senior DOD post without the Senate’s approval.

“While I have always stressed the need to have Senate-confirmed leadership in top Pentagon positions, I believe it is within the president’s authority to appoint DOD officials when and as appropriate,” Inhofe said. “These are clearly critical positions within the department where a full bench is needed.”

Democrats derided the move as an end-run around Congress.

"Our system of checks and balances exists for a reason and the Senate's role in the confirmation process for administration appointees ensures individuals at the highest levels of government are highly qualified," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) said in a statement. "If an appointee cannot gain the support of the Senate, as is clearly the case with Tata, then the president should not put that person into an identical temporary role. This evasion of scrutiny makes our government less accountable and prioritizes loyalty over competence."

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Tata's installation at the Pentagon is "an insult to our troops, professionals at the Pentagon, the Senate, and the American people" and accused the Trump administration of "dizzying dysfunction."