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World

US Senate cancels confirmation hearing for Trump nominee who called Obama 'terrorist'

  • Tata, a retired Army brigadier general who has been an ardent defender of Trump in appearances on Fox News, would hold the most senior policy position in the Pentagon if confirmed.
  • Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that Tata had previously sent a letter to the committee apologizing for his controversial remarks.
Published July 31, 2020

WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Thursday abruptly canceled a hearing for President Donald Trump's most divisive nominee to date for a senior Pentagon post, raising questions about whether enough lawmakers would support Anthony Tata, who has called former President Barack Obama "a terrorist leader."

Tata, a retired Army brigadier general who has been an ardent defender of Trump in appearances on Fox News, would hold the most senior policy position in the Pentagon if confirmed.

In addition to falsely calling Obama a Muslim and a terrorist, Tata has also called Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an African American, a "race baiting racist," according to now-deleted Twitter posts seen by Reuters.

Just before Tata's confirmation hearing was set to start on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee's website said it had been canceled without giving a reason.

Senator Jim Inhofe, the Republican head of the committee, said many lawmakers did not know enough about Tata to consider him for the position at this time and some documentation had not been received in time.

"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," Inhofe said in a statement.

The committee's top Democrat, Senator Jack Reed, was more direct, saying in a statement: "It's fair to say members on both sides of the aisle have raised serious questions about this nominee."

The Pentagon said that Tata would continue to serve as a senior advisor in Defense Secretary Mark Esper's office, although his exact responsibilities are unclear.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that Tata had previously sent a letter to the committee apologizing for his controversial remarks.

"Even the general does not support the comments that he had made previously," Hoffman said.

Prior to the cancellation, the White House had said it stands by Tata's nomination to fill the position of undersecretary of defense for policy.

"Anthony Tata is a distinguished public servant whose career has provided him with planning, policy, and operational experience both at home and abroad," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

Tata has extensive US military knowledge after serving for nearly three decades, including in a senior role in Afghanistan. However, current and former US defense officials say he has little knowledge of Asia, at a time when Esper is trying to focus on competition with China.

Democratic lawmakers had signaled they would oppose Tata's nomination, with Senator Elizabeth Warren calling Tata "by far Trump's most unqualified & ill-suited senior defense nominee - a high bar." She said in a statement that "an Islamophobic conspiracy theorist who called President Obama a 'terrorist leader' should not be #3 at the Pentagon."

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