Biden’s new Pentagon chief purges Trump loyalists — including one who called Obama a ‘terrorist leader’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announces ‘immediate suspension’ of former appointees, including several known for their incendiary online rhetoric

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 03 February 2021 15:58 GMT
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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered the immediate suspension of all advisory committees installed under the previous administration, while purging the Pentagon of close allies and loyalists to former President Donald Trump.

The new Pentagon chief announced the sweeping measures in a statement on Tuesday that read: “I am directing the immediate suspension of all advisory committee operations until the review is completed unless otherwise directed by myself or the deputy secretary of defense.”

His decision to cease advisory operations impacted 31 defense advisory boards and 42 panels in total, and applied to numerous officials appointed by the former president, including controversial policy advisers known for promoting incendiary and false claims online.  

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Anthony Tata was one of those officials removed from the Pentagon as part of the new secretary’s purge this week. 

As former acting policy chief under Mr Trump, his appointment to the Pentagon was met with swift backlash last year, as critics noted reports from 2018 that said he called former President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” in a series of offensive tweets.

Mr Tata, who also reportedly described Islam as the “most oppressive violent religion I know of” in tweets that have since been deleted, failed to get through Senate confirmation hearings due to his online rhetoric and eventually withdrew his name for consideration from the position. 

He was later appointed by Mr Trump to serve in the role of deputy undersecretary, before later moving into one of the department’s top policy jobs.

The defense secretary’s purge also applied to former Air force pilot Scott O’Grady, a member of the Pentagon’s advisory board under Mr Trump who actively promoted unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

Mr O’Grady, who was previously nominated by Mr Trump to serve as a senior official at the Pentagon, spent recent months retweeting posts from accounts containing false information about the election results and encouraging the former president to declare martial law in a last-ditch effort to maintain power after his loss to President Joe Biden.

Mr Austin’s announcement does not impact appointees to boards of visitors for military academies, including former aide Kellyanne Conway and former press secretary Sean Spicer, as well as certain positions appointed by the president or Congress.

However, the defense secretary also announced a “zero-based review” assessing the entirety of the department’s advisory operations. 

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