Mr. Esper got the nod for the position after the surprise announcement Tuesday by acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan that he is withdrawing from the nomination for the post after several news organizations pursued stories related to domestic violence incidents involving the Shanahan family from 2011. The incidents reportedly were the subject of an FBI background investigation.
Mr. Shanahan, who was confirmed as deputy defense secretary in July 2017, took over as acting defense chief on Jan. 1 after the resignation of then-Defense Secretary James Mattis in December. Mr. Mattis resigned over a disagreement with President Trump and had hoped to remain in the post through the spring but was instead fired by the president.
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