Confirmation in doubt for controversial Pentagon nominee Tata after Senate cancels hearing

Anthony Tata. Credit: Wikipedia.

WASHINGTON — Bipartisan backlash against Anthony Tata, the former North Carolina government official who was President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for a senior Pentagon position, has thrown his nomination into doubt.

Thursday evening CNN reported that Senate sources expect the White House to withdraw his name. And Tata’s nomination was already in doubt after Republicans cancelled plans for his nomination hearing earlier in the day.

Tata, a 61-year-old retired Army brigadier general, novelist and Fox News commentator, was scheduled for a vetting Thursday in the Senate Committee on Armed Services for the No. 3 position at the Pentagon. But Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced shortly before the hearing was set to begin that it would not go on.

Tata led the North Carolina Department of Transportation until he resigned in 2015. Before that he was superintendent of the Wake County Public System, North Carolina’s largest, from 2010 to 2012, when the Democratic-majority board voted to fire him. While he worked at NC DOT, Tata wrote two action thriller novels, “Mortal Threat” and “Foreign and Domestic.”

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the committee, said members of both parties raised “serious questions about this nominee” in a closed-door session earlier this week.

Trump nominated Tata earlier this summer to be the undersecretary of defense for policy. The influential position serves as the principal policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense and leads the coordination of national security policy.

Tata came under fire for inflammatory remarks he made in the past. CNN reported in June that he had called Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” on Twitter in 2018. Tata later deleted the tweet. He also called Islam “the most oppressive violent religion” and said the Iran nuclear deal came about because of Obama’s “Islamic roots.” Tata apologized for the statements.

Another CNN investigation of past radio and television interviews uncovered that Tata had spread conspiracy theories of a “deep state cabal” of federal officials actively working to set up Trump to fail. Two retired Army generals came out against his nomination after that report.

Ten Senate Democrats, half of whom sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, signed a July 24 letter asking Tata to withdraw his nomination and step down from his current position as a senior advisor at the Pentagon. Civil rights groups also came out against the nomination, including the NAACP, Muslim Advocates and Faithful America, a Christian social-justice group.