Top Pentagon policy official resigns day after Trump fires defense secretary


Washington (CNN)Controversial retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata is being moved into the Pentagon’s top policy role, taking over the duties of James Anderson, who resigned Tuesday, according to a US defense official.

Tata was previously nominated to be undersecretary of defense for policy this summer but his nomination was withdrawn because of bipartisan opposition.

CNN’s KFile reported that he has made numerous Islamophobic and offensive comments and promoted conspiracy theories.

After the withdrawal of his nomination, Tata was designated “the official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy” reporting to Anderson.

Trump fires Secretary of Defense Mark Esper

The move only adds to the sense of chaos within the Pentagon following Trump’s firing of Esper on Monday. The President jettisoned him two days after his Democratic opponent Joe Biden was projected as the winner of the presidential election, a conclusion that Trump has refused to accept.

Tata is widely viewed as a Trump loyalist who maintained support from the White House even as Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee signaled they were unwilling to support his confirmation earlier this year.

Anderson had been serving as the acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy since John Rood was fired by the Trump administration in February due to disagreements on a range of policy issues.

It was not immediately clear whether Anderson was asked to resign.

Anderson has been at the Pentagon since 2018, serving first as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities and later became the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy before taking over the top policy job upon Rood’s ouster.

In his farewell message to members of his staff Anderson said, “I leave knowing that the team will preserve, regardless of what lies ahead. I encourage everyone to remain mission focused, apolitical, and never to forget your oath of office.”

Knowledgeable sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the White House now seems focused on going after Esper’s undersecretaries at the Defense Department in the wake of his ouster on Monday.

The sources said the effort may be because Esper and his team were pushing back on a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan that would be carried out before the required conditions on the ground were met, and other pending security issues.

US military officials have long stressed that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is conditions based, with those conditions including the Taliban’s breaking its ties to al Qaeda and making progress in peace talks with the Afghan government, two conditions that have yet to be met.

But despite the lack of progress, the Trump administration has already substantially reduced US troops in Afghanistan to about 4,500, the lowest levels since the earliest days of the post 9/11 campaign.

Doubts over future of other senior national security officials

Esper’s firing raised concerns that other top national security officials who have earned Trump’s wrath may be vulnerable.

CNN reported Monday that Trump and some of his conservative allies have become increasingly frustrated with CIA Director Gina Haspel in recent weeks, accusing her of delaying the release of documents they believe would expose so-called “deep state” plots against Trump’s campaign and transition during the Obama administration, according to multiple current and former officials.

CIA Director Haspel's fate uncertain after Trump fires Esper

FBI Director Christopher Wray has also provoked Trump’s ire, fueling some uncertainty about his future, according to the same sources.

Trump tapped Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to lead the Pentagon for what will likely be the remainder of his administration.

Miller has been a driving force behind some of Trump’s policies targeting Iran and its proxy group Hezbollah, as well as counterterrorism efforts linked to the wars in Syria and Iraq. Prior to heading the NCTC, Miller was director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council.

An Iowa native and retired US Army officer, Miller has also served as a deputy assistant secretary of defense. Miller was seen arriving at the Pentagon Monday afternoon and, soon after, met with Milley and other top staff for critical briefings on issues such as the nuclear codes and military operations around the world. Miller told officials to not expect “significant changes at this time,” the official said.

Tata pushed numerous conspiracy theories about Obama and former CIA director

Tata formally withdrew his nomination to be the Defense Department undersecretary of defense for policy this summer after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle made clear they would not support his confirmation.

The retired Brigadier General was expected to face a tough nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee after CNN’s KFile reported that Tata had made numerous Islamophobic and offensive comments.

In several tweets from 2018, Tata said that Islam was the “most oppressive violent religion I know of” and claimed former President Barack Obama was a “terrorist leader” who did more to harm the US “and help Islamic countries than any president in history.” Following the publication of KFile’s story, Tata deleted several of his tweets, screenshots of which were captured by KFile.

Top Pentagon nominee pushed conspiracy theories that former CIA director tried to overthrow Trump and even have him assassinated

CNN previously reported that Tata also repeatedly spread a number of conspiracy theories, including baseless claims that Obama’s former CIA director, John Brennan, tried to overthrow Trump and even have him assassinated — revelations that ultimately preceded the abrupt cancellation of his nomination hearing and Trump’s move to place him in a position that did no require Senate approval.

CNN’s KFile reviewed dozens of Tata’s radio and television appearances and found that he also spread conspiracy theories that a “deep state cabal” of officials would rather see Trump fail than succeed in office, a sentiment echoed by the President and his allies, using extreme rhetoric.

    Tata also said Obama and first lady Michelle Obama engaged in “borderline treasonous” behavior by expressing their dismay over a Trump presidency during the transition period.

    This story has been updated with additional background information and context.

    CNN’s Jake Tapper, Em Steck, Andrew Kaczynski, Nathan McDermott and Nicole Gaouette contributed to this report.