President gives new Pentagon chief a sampling of his worldview

The Spokesman Review, Jan. 3, 2019, White House Roundup

On his first working day in charge of the Pentagon, Pat Shanahan got a taste of President Donald Trump’s scattershot way of looking at the world.

As Shanahan sat to Trump’s left at a Cabinet meeting at the White House, the president denounced U.S. allies as freeloaders, expressed disgust with U.S. warfighting strategy in Afghanistan, mused about his own potential to be a great general, dismissed Syria as “sand and death,” spoke encouragingly of a second North Korea summit, and falsely claimed he had fired former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

It was a very public reminder of the challenges that Shanahan, as acting defense secretary, faces as he navigates the complex terrain that led to the early end of his predecessor’s tenure.

At one point, Trump turned to Shanahan with an unusual demand.

The commander in chief said audits of Pentagon war spending must be “private” – an apparent reference to reports produced by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Trump asserted that the reports give away too much information and should not be publicly released, although the law that created that watchdog’s office says its reports must be made public.

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