White House Kills McCusker Nomination in Fallout from Ukraine Aid Holdup

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Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Elaine McCusker
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Elaine McCusker, left, is briefed by Col. James L. Shelton, right, commanding officer, Camp Johnson, about the current damage to facilities during her tour of Camp Johnson, North Carolina, Feb. 27, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Isaiah Gomez)

The Trump administration has withdrawn the nomination of Elaine McCusker, the chief numbers cruncher at the Defense Department, to become the Pentagon's comptroller in more fallout from the impeachment proceedings and the holdup of military aid to Ukraine.

The White House gave no reasons in announcing Monday night that the McCusker nomination had been pulled back from the Senate, but her questioning of the delay in the delivery of military support to Ukraine appeared to be a main factor.

Rumors that the McCusker nomination was in trouble had circulated in the Pentagon since the Senate on Feb. 6 acquitted President Donald Trump in the impeachment proceeding.

At a Feb. 19 briefing, Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, sought to deflect the rumors. McCusker was "still the president's nominee," he said, adding, "I've not seen anything additional that would lead me to believe" that her nomination would be withdrawn.

Related: White House Dismisses Lt. Col. Vindman After His Testimony in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry

Following his impeachment acquittal, Trump has acted against officials who either testified in the House impeachment inquiry hearings or were seen to be disloyal, in his view.

Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer and Purple Heart recipient who testified under a subpoena, was removed and escorted out of the White House by the Secret Service. His twin brother, Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an NSC lawyer, was also fired.

On Feb. 19, John Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, resigned at Trump's request, although no reasons were given for his departure.

However, Rood last May had certified in a letter to Congress that Ukraine had met all the requirements to receive about $250 million in military aid.

The withdrawal of McCusker's nomination amounts to a continuation by Trump of an effort to get rid of top officials in retaliation for his impeachment, Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, charged in a statement.

"Elaine McCusker is another casualty of the Trump administration's efforts to purge public servants who put country before fealty to the president," Reed said.

"The termination of her nomination is collateral damage by a president who has vindictively purged career national security professionals caught up in the impeachment inquiry," he added. "Ms. McCusker is a dedicated civil servant with decades of experience at the Department of Defense."

It was unclear whether McCusker would choose to remain at her current post as deputy under secretary of defense, in which she has served as acting comptroller since David Norquist, who had been comptroller, was sworn in last July as deputy defense secretary, the No. 2 post.

McCusker is legendary in the Pentagon press corps for her detailed mastery of the intricacies of the byzantine Defense Department budgets past and present, and also her rapid-fire ability to attach real and projected numbers to programs and weapons procurements.

She again was the main briefer at the Feb. 10 rollout of the Pentagon's proposed fiscal 2020 budget.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Read more: White House Nominates Nation's 1st African American Military Service Chief

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