White House pushing back against Mattis appointment
Eliana Johnson, Politico, Mar 3 2017
Sec Def ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis wants to tap former ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, as his under-Sec Def for policy, but he is running into resistance from the White House, say sources. If nominated and confirmed, Patterson would hold the fourth most powerful position at the Pentagon, and would effectively be the top civilian in the DoD, since both Mattis and his deputy, Robert Work, were military officers. As ambassador to Egypt between 2011 and 2013, Patterson worked closely with former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. She came under fire for cultivating too close a relationship with the regime and for discouraging protests against it, and White House officials are voicing concerns about those decisions now. The skirmish surrounding Patterson’s nomination is the latest in a series of personnel battles that have played out between Mattis and the White House, with each side rejecting the names offered up by the other while the Pentagon remains empty. The White House has yet to nominate a single under-secretary or deputy secretary to the DoD, while Work, Mattis’s deputy, is an Obama administration holdover who only agreed to stay on until the secretary taps a deputy of his own. A similar tug of war has played out between the White House and other agency chiefs, most notably Sec State Rex Tillerson, whom the president denied his top choice for deputy Sec State last month. But it is Mattis who’s dug in most stubbornly, insisting on staffing his own department. A Mattis friend said:
Mattis is a guy who cares very much about personnel. He doesn’t want people off the tracks that he has laid down and that he’s running his train on.
Patterson, a career diplomat, has never held a DoD position. She previously served as ambassador to Colombia and Pakistan. Obama nominated her to be the Asst Sec State for Near Eastern Affairs, the post from which she retired last month. She was the top Pindo boxtop in Egypt during the rise of Morsi and shortly thereafter his ouster at the hands of the Egyptian military. Patterson became the subject of withering criticism when she dismissed the 2013 uprising against Morsi as “street protests.” Protesters plastered her face on signs and banners crossed out with a red X. In part, she had the misfortune of being the face of Obama’s policies in the country, and of the administration’s decision to stick with the Morsi government. A person familiar with the conversations:
The biggest pushback is that she was ambassador to Egypt immediately before and after the Morsi presidency. Mattis put her name forward and he doesn’t quite understand why people have an objection.
A spokesman for Mattis declined to comment on the secretary’s personnel recommendations to the president. The secretary of defense has been warring with the president and his aides over personnel since before the inauguration in January.