WASHINGTON ― A top Senate Republican on Tuesday cast doubt on a report that the White House will pull its pick to take over as Pentagon comptroller and chief financial officer.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, whose committee would hold the nomination hearing for Deputy Comptroller Elaine McCusker, said he had not received any word that administration officials have had a change of heart. Inhofe believed her nomination would proceed.
“I had a conversation an hour ago with someone [at the Pentagon] who would have said something to me,” Inhofe, R-Okla., told reporters. “I have a feeling everything is going to be fine with the nomination.
The New York Post reported Tuesday that the White House planned to withdraw McCusker’s nomination after emails were obtained in January by Just Security in which McCusker questioned the legality of Trump’s directive to freeze about $250 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
During President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, House impeachment investigators accused Trump of improperly withholding a White House meeting and U.S. military aid in an effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and other political matters. Trump’s defense team argued there was no connection between any investigations and security assistance or meeting.
A nomination hearing could provide a forum to hear from McCusker about her monthslong efforts to press the White House budget office to release the aid. In one internal email, she said White House lawyers “continue to consistently mischaracterize the process” of transmitting the aid, while in another, she suggested the hold risked violating the Impoundment Control Act.
On Tuesday, Inhofe said he would be fine with Democrats raising questions in a nomination hearing for McCusker about her interactions with the White House budget office.
“The prospect is there, but I think she is still going to be nominated,” Inhofe said about that scenario. “If they do, and she’s willing to do it, it’s good with me.”
On Monday, McCusker appeared as the face of the Pentagon’s public budget roll out. A career civil servant, McCusker has has served as acting comptroller for just over a year, since David Norquist was tapped to serve as deputy defense secretary.
Trump on Saturday blasted an Army officer who played a key role in the impeachment inquiry against him as “insubordinate” and accused him of leaking information to the press, problems that warranted his firing on Friday. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was reassigned from his job at the National Security Council to a new Army position.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.