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Another Trump nominee for the Pentagon accused of radicalism

Did the White House do any vetting on Scott O'Grady, or did White House officials do their due diligence and not care about his record of radicalism?
Image: Pentagon
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington on Dec. 26, 2011.Dan De LUCE / AFP - Getty Images file

At the Pentagon, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs is not an insignificant position. The person oversees military relations with NATO members, as well as countries throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Keep this in mind when reading this CNN report on Donald Trump's latest choice for the job.

President Donald Trump's nominee to become a senior Pentagon official spread debunked conspiracies on Twitter that called Trump's election loss to Joe Biden a "coup" attempt and shared tweets that suggest Trump should declare martial law. Scott O'Grady, a former fighter pilot and Trump loyalist, repeatedly retweeted tweets that falsely stated Trump won the election in "landslide fashion" and that millions of votes were stolen from the President.

The kind of content O'Grady has pushed via social media is quite nutty. The former fighter pilot, who co-chaired the Veterans for Trump effort this year, has promoted content that accused Biden of participating in coup. And content that suggested that Trump should declare martial law. And content that condemned former Defense Secretary James Mattis as a "traitor." And content that accused Hillary Clinton and George Soros of being involved in some weird foreign plot against the elections.

This is a small sampling. O'Grady has also signaled support for Sidney Powell -- a conspiratorial attorney deemed too ridiculous for Team Trump -- questioned whether the coronavirus is a partisan plot, and retweeted content with a pro-QAnon hashtag.

And yet, despite all of this, on Monday, the White House sent O'Grady's nomination to the Senate for possible confirmation during the lame-duck session. If Republicans senators agree, his tenure would be exceedingly brief: Biden and his team take office next month.

To be sure, there's been no indication that the GOP-led Senate intends to act on this nomination, and by all appearances, I'd consider his confirmation extremely unlikely.

But the fact that the nomination exists at all leads to a few questions. First, where in the world does Team Trump find these guys?

Second, did the White House do any vetting at all on O'Grady, or did White House officials do their due diligence and simply not care about his record of radicalism?

And third, why exactly is the president so eager to pack important Pentagon posts with extreme ideologues in his final seven weeks in office?

As regular readers know, O'Grady is hardly the only provocative Defense Department personnel choice Trump has made lately. In the wake of Defense Secretary Mark Esper's firing, James Anderson, the Pentagon's acting policy chief, also resigned and was quickly replaced with retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata -- a former Fox News regular and right-wing conspiracy theorist, who couldn't be confirmed to a DOD post in a Republican-led Senate, and who's perhaps best known for having described Barack Obama as a "terrorist leader."

But that's just the start. Joseph Kernan, the undersecretary for intelligence, also stepped down, and was replaced by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former aide to Michael Flynn, the disgraced former White House national security adviser.

Jen Stewart, the Defense Department's chief of staff, also stepped down, succeeded by Kash Patel, a controversial former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and someone best known for his work trying to discredit the investigation into Trump's Russia scandal.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon general counsel, "under pressure from the White House," has turned to former GOP political operative Michael Ellis to serve as the top lawyer at the National Security Agency. If Ellis' name sounds at all familiar, he's the guy accused of transferring the infamous Trump/Zelensky call summary -- the one that led to the president being impeached for having launched an illegal extortion scheme -- to a top-secret computer server.

It's hard not to wonder how relieved senior military and national security officials will feel on Jan. 20.