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A top Trump Pentagon nominee walks back 2018 tweets calling Obama a ‘terrorist leader’

The Pentagon in Arlington county, Va. (Dreamstime/TNS)
June 23, 2020

President Donald Trump’s nominee for undersecretary of defense for policy, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, has apologized after his 2018 tweets resurfaced, in which he referred to former President Barrack Obama as a Muslim and a “terrorist leader.” Tata also said Obama did more to “help Islamic countries than any president in history” and said Islam is the “most oppressive violent religion I know of.”

Tata sent a letter to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), in which he apologized for the offensive tweets. In the letter, obtained by The Washington Examiner on Friday, Tata said he “deeply regretted” the comments.

“Out of the 8,800 tweets I authored and hundreds of speeches I have given, the few misstatements on Twitter, while grievous, are not indicative of who I am,” Tata wrote. “They are an aberration in a four-decade thread of faithful public service.”

Tata has already served in an advisory role to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and was nominated on June 10 to fill the role of undersecretary of defense for policy. The position is considered the third most senior role at the Pentagon. Trump tapped Tata, a noted critic of the war in Afghanistan, for the Pentagon post amid his administration’s efforts to bring U.S. troops home from the 18-year conflict.

Tata’s credentials as a one-star general include combat experience, and he has also held public office, including as North Carolina secretary of transportation. Based on his credentials, more than 30 former senior military officers, State Department officials, and national security figures endorsed his nomination.

The recent revelations about Tata have since caused some of those military officials to withdraw their support for his nomination.

“I now would not want him in that position,” retired Army Gen. Joe Votel said in comments reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula also said he was notifying Tata that he wanted to withdraw his support from the endorsement letter.

“I was not aware of Brig. Gen. Tata’s comments about President Obama and others,” Deptula said. “People have the right to disagree with elected officials but I don’t condone disrespect of any duly elected president.”

Retired Gen. Wes Clark, the former commander of NATO and a former Democratic presidential contender, said Tata would have to explain himself in order to win the support he would need for his nomination.

“If he is going to be confirmed, and he is going to be effective, he’s going to have to go into those democratic senators and apologize for what he said,” Clark told The Journal. “He is going to have to convince them that he is mature enough, responsible enough and nonpartisan enough to be trusted in that position.”

The revelation of Tata’s comments had already led six Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee to publicly oppose his nomination, Foreign Policy reported.

Foreign Policy noted another potential problem for Tata’s nomination, regarding his departure from military service. Tata retired from the military in 2009 after the Army found that he committed adultery with at least two women during a past marriage and forged a court order relating to the case.