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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday clashed with Mark Esper, President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. defense secretary, saying he should be not be confirmed to the post because of ethical concerns related to his former lobbyist job at defense contractor Raytheon Co.
The sharp exchange between Esper, the current Army secretary, and Warren was a rare contentious moment during his otherwise smooth Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, with panel members eager to fill the lingering Pentagon vacancy.
Esper refused when Warren demanded that he commit to not working for any defense contractor for four years after leaving his Pentagon job and that he extend a two-year ethics commitment due to expire in November that forces him to avoid decisions involving Raytheon.
He agreed to comply with all legally binding ethics regulations while in office. Warren, a candidate for her party’s 2020 presidential nomination and the only member of the committee to voice opposition to Esper’s confirmation, repeatedly interrupted him as he tried to explain his position.
There has been no confirmed defense secretary since Jim Mattis resigned in December over policy differences with the Republican president, the longest period in Pentagon history. Three people have served as acting secretary during that time, including Patrick Shanahan, who withdrew from consideration as Pentagon chief on June 18 after reports emerged of domestic violence in his family.
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