The White House knew about a violent domestic dispute between members of outgoing Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan's family thatto become the permanent secretary, according to two administration officials familiar with the matter.
Even so, President Trump said as he departed for Florida Tuesday that he had only learned of Shanahan's family issues for the first time "yesterday." Mr. Trump said he had not asked Shanahan to withdraw his nomination to be defense secretary and that it was Shanahan's decision.
Mr. Trump also said he intends to nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper, who will become acting secretary, for the permanent position. "That's what I plan to do," he said, adding that he would decide soon.
Shanahan withdrew from consideration for the top Pentagon post on Tuesday, as reports emerged about two confrontations dating back to 2010 and 2011. In the 2010 incident, Shanahan and his then-wife, Kimberly Jordinson, each claimed to have been punched by the other, according to divorce records. Shanahan denied hitting Jordinson and she was arrested, but the case was later dropped.
In 2011, the couple's son, William Shanahan, brutally beat his mother with a baseball bat, leaving her unconscious and fracturing her skull, records show. The incident was first reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday, shortly after Mr. Trump announced Shanahan was withdrawing from consideration. Shanahan wrote a memo defending his son shortly after the 2011 incident, but told The Post he did so without full knowledge of his then-wife's injuries.
One senior administration official told CBS News the White House was aware of the incident involving Shanahan's son, but didn't know about the 2010 confrontation. Another official said the White House knew about the 2011 incident dating back to when Bill Shine was White House communications director. Shine resigned in March of this year.
The White House had not formally nominated Shanahan to become permanent defense secretary, but plans to do so were on track "even of this morning," an administration official told CBS News. After reports by Yahoo News and USA Today revealed some of the details of Shanahan's contentious divorce and the 2010 allegations, he went to the White House on Tuesday and informed acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney he was withdrawing his name, the official said. He then met with President Trump in the Oval Office and told him he was withdrawing.
Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr. Trump called him Tuesday morning to inform him of Shanahan's decision.
After Shanahan withdrew from consideration, lawmakers immediately began raising questions about what the White House knew and when.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters the committee was not informed of Shanahan's domestic history when he was nominated and confirmed as deputy secretary in 2017. He said failure to disclose the incidents was "possibly a deliberate concealment" and called for an investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general. Blumenthal also said Shanahan may have violated the law if he failed to disclose the incidents to the White House or during his FBI background check.
"I want to know whether it's the FBI, or some deliberate concealment by Shanahan," Blumenthal said.
In a statement Tuesday, Shanahan said he was withdrawing because "a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process."
Clare Hymes, Robert Legare, Nancy Cordes and Ben Tracy contributed reporting.