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White House tells Senate Armed Services they plan to withdraw controversial Pentagon nominee, source says

Top Pentagon nominee, Anthony Tata, faces tough nomination hearing over Islamophobic and conspiratorial comments. (Provided Photo/NCDOT via CNN)

(CNN) — The White House notified the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday morning that they will withdraw Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata’s nomination to become the Department of Defense’s undersecretary of defense for policy, a Senate source tells CNN.

Tata was scheduled to testify in front of the committee Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET, but the hearing was canceled. He was expected to face a tough nomination hearing after CNN’s KFile reported that he made numerous Islamophobic and offensive comments and promoted conspiracy theories.

The committee was advised late Wednesday night that the withdrawal was likely. The White House declined to comment.

Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is the chairman of the committee, said in a statement, “There are many Democrats and Republicans who didn’t know enough about Anthony Tata to consider him for a very significant position at this time.”

He continued, “We didn’t get the required documentation in time; some documents, which we normally get before a hearing, didn’t arrive until yesterday. 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.”

If he had been confirmed, Tata would have assumed the third-highest position at the Pentagon, overseeing policy from Afghanistan, China, Iran and Russia to nuclear deterrence and missile defense.

After the White House officially nominated Tata in June, CNN’s KFile reported the retired general has a history of making Islamophobic, offensive and extremist comments on social media and in radio interviews.

In tweets, Tata falsely called former President Barack Obama a “Muslim” and “terrorist leader” and said that Islam is the “most oppressive violent religion I know of.” He called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and California Rep. Maxine Waters “violent extremists” and said Waters was a “vicious race-baiting racist.”

CNN’s KFile also reported Tata falsely claimed Obama was “a Manchurian candidate” purposely attempting to bring down the United States and accused Obama officials of committing “treason.” He also repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories that a “deep state cabal” of officials were working to overthrow Trump and that former CIA Director John Brennan ordered an assassination against Trump via a coded tweet.

Tata later apologized for his tweets in a letter he sent to Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe and Ranking Member Jack Reed, and retracted his comments on Islam.

Tata’s nomination facedsignificant pushback from Senate Democrats and at least one Republican.

Senate Democrats on the committee, including Ranking Member Jack Reed of Rhode Island, opposed Tata after his comments were initially brought to light, but on Monday they sent a letter to Tata urging him to withdraw his nomination and resign from his role as a senior adviser at the Pentagon ahead of his hearing.

“Your record of offensive and inflammatory comments disqualifies you from serving in your current position and the position for which you have been nominated,” Democrats wrote in the letter. “No one with a record of repeated, repugnant statements like yours should be nominated to serve in a senior position of public trust at the Pentagon. Your views are wholly incompatible with the U.S. military’s values.”

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota warned in a statement last week he would oppose Tata’s nomination unless concessions were made to include sailors who died aboard the USS Frank E. Evans to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a policy Cramer called “based on arbitrary Defense Department guidelines enforced by unelected bureaucrats.”

Though Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, noted CNN’s reports “got our attention,” other Republicans on the committee have yet to publicly declare support or opposition for his nomination, including Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, all of whom are facing tough their reelection fights in November.

At least 51 advocacy groups had condemned Tata’s nomination. Tata’s support from some in the military community has slipped, too. At least two high-profile retired generals pulled their support for Tata since his tweets were reported.

Despite the opposition, the White House had stuck by the retired general. “Anthony Tata, the President’s exceptionally qualified nominee for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, 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 told CNN in an email in June. “His education, background, and record has earned him bi-partisan praise, and this attempt by the media to slander his reputation is disgusting. The White House stands by the President’s qualified nominee.”

Recently, two other retired generals who served with Tata voiced their support for him in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, writing that Tata “has been a strong voice for racial, ethnic and religious equality wherever he’s worked. Recently some have called for his head over a few inflammatory tweets. We agree they were ill-considered, and he has apologized for sending them. Yet his critics ignore his unimpeachable record of combating racism and effecting change for the betterment of communities of color.”

The retired general currently works as a senior adviser in the Department of Defense, and previously served for 28 years in the Army before retiring in 2009. An Army investigation conducted in 2007 found he committed adultery with at least two women — a crime under military law — and falsified a legal document, according to The News and Observer. The Army declined to penalize Tata, and Tata provided his military records to the News and Observer, which showed glowing reviews from his tenure.

After his tenure in the Army, Tata worked as the chief operating officer for District of Columbia Public School district from 2009 to 2011 and later as the superintendent of Wake County’s public schools in North Carolina from 2011 to 2012. Later, he served as North Carolina’s transportation secretary. Tata is also the author of a dozen military adventure books and is best known for his “Threat” series.

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