New York Times: Democrat Jim Webb being floated for defense secretary

Jim Webb, a former Democratic presidential hopeful, has been floated as a potential permanent replacement for Defense Secretary James Mattis by the Trump administration, The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing three officials.

In a Friday afternoon tweet, President Donald Trump denied the report and praised Patrick Shanahan, who is temporarily filling the role.

“I’m sure he is a fine man, but I don’t know Jim, and never met him. Patrick Shanahan, who is Acting Secretary of Defense, is doing a great job!”

Mattis stepped down from his role in December following Trump’s abrupt announcement that he is pulling troops out of Syria.

Webb served as secretary of the Navy under former President Ronald Reagan, and represented Virginia in the US Senate. He launched a Democratic presidential bid in 2016.

One official told The Times that representatives for Vice President Mike Pence and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney reached out to Webb. Additionally, the paper reported that a senior Defense Department official said Webb’s name was in the mix.

The Times report notes that if Webb were tapped, the move would be seen as forgoing more hawkish Republican picks, since Webb was a vocal critic of the Iraq War.