Trump, Returning to Retribution, Withdraws Pentagon Nomination

WASHINGTON — President Trump returned on Monday to his post-impeachment score-settling, withdrawing the nomination of Elaine McCusker to a top Defense Department post. Ms. McCusker had questioned the suspension of assistance to Ukraine, a central line of inquiry in the president’s impeachment.

White House aides had forecast the punishment for Ms. McCusker last month, around the time the president was banishing Alexander S. Vindman and Yevgeny Vindman, twin brothers and both Army lieutenant colonels, from the National Security Council. Alexander Vindman testified during Mr. Trump’s impeachment proceedings.

Mr. Trump also fired Gordon D. Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, who famously asked and answered his own question during the impeachment hearings: “Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.”

News outlets reported that Ms. McCusker was next on the chopping block. Administration officials said they expected the paperwork for her nomination to be comptroller at the Pentagon to be pulled after budget hearings.

On Monday, an aide with the Senate Armed Services Committee said they had received paperwork — with no additional explanation — that the president was pulling Ms. McCusker’s nomination.

Ms. McCusker could not be reached for comment. Her friends said she had been aware that her nomination was in jeopardy.

The president’s anger at her stems from email exchanges in August in which Ms. McCusker, then a deputy under secretary of defense overseeing spending, questioned Mr. Trump’s freeze on military aid for Ukraine.

Numerous officials testified before Congress that Mr. Trump held up military aid in order to extract a promise from the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of Hunter Biden, the son of Mr. Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

A political appointee at the budget office, Michael P. Duffey, wrote a lengthy email to Ms. McCusker, with whom he had been at odds throughout the summer, about how long the administration could withhold military aid to Ukraine.

Mr. Duffey tried to shift blame for the delay in the funding from the White House to the Pentagon.

Forty-three minutes later, Ms. McCusker replied:

“You can’t be serious,” she wrote. “I am speechless.”

A Pentagon spokesman on Monday referred all questions on the matter to the White House.

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