The U.S. Senate on Thursday abruptly canceled a hearing for President Donald Trump's most divisive nominee to date for a senior Pentagon post, raising questions about whether the controversial retired general had enough support from lawmakers.
Anthony Tata, a retired Army brigadier general who has been an ardent defender of Trump in appearances on Fox News, would hold the most senior policy position in the Pentagon if confirmed.
Tata has falsely portrayed former President Barack Obama as a Muslim and accused him of being a "terrorist leader" working to benefit Iran, according to now-deleted Twitter posts seen by Reuters.
Just before Tata's confirmation hearing was set to start on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee's website said it had been canceled without giving a reason.
Senator Jim Inhofe, the Republican head of the committee, said many lawmakers did not know enough about Tata to consider him for the position at this time and some documentation had not been received in time.
"As I told the President last night, we're simply out of time with the August recess coming, so it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose to have a hearing at this point, and he agreed," Inhofe said in a statement.
Prior to the cancellation, the White House had said it stands by Tata's nomination to fill the position of undersecretary of defense for policy.
"Anthony Tata is a distinguished public servant whose career has provided him with planning, policy, and operational experience both at home and abroad," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.
Tata has extensive U.S. military knowledge after serving for nearly three decades, including in a senior role in Afghanistan. However, current and former U.S. defense officials say he has little knowledge of Asia, at a time when Defense Secretary Mark Esper is trying to focus on competition with China.
Democratic lawmakers had signaled they would oppose Tata's nomination.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren called Tata "by far Trump's most unqualified & ill-suited senior defense nominee – a high bar." She said in a statement that "an Islamophobic conspiracy theorist who called President Obama a 'terrorist leader' should not be #3 at the Pentagon."
While the extent of Republican support for Tata was unclear, Republican Senator Kevin Cramer had said he plans to oppose Tata's nomination unless the Pentagon makes changes to an unrelated policy issue.