- John Rood will leave his position as undersecretary of defense for policy at the end of this month, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday, confirming earlier reporting.
- He was asked to resign after losing the support of senior national-security leadership, CNN first reported on Wednesday.
- Rood, who joined the administration in 2018, was involved in approving $250 million in security assistance for Ukraine – aid that was temporarily withheld by the White House last summer.
- While letters and emails he sent undermined the administration’s arguments about why the aid was being withheld and expressed concern about the effect on US defense priorities, it is unclear whether the request for his resignation is related.
- Officials told Bloomberg that national-security officials lost confidence in Rood’s ability to execute the president’s agenda.
- Sources told Foreign Policy that Rood was asked to resign because the president had lost confidence in him following the departures of several senior Pentagon policymakers.
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A senior Pentagon policy official was asked to resign after losing the support of top national-security leadership, CNN first reported on Wednesday morning.
John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy since 2018, will step down at the end of this month, the Pentagon said in a statement, confirming the earlier reporting.
Administration officials told Bloomberg that senior national-security officials had lost confidence in Rood’s ability to execute President Donald Trump’s agenda. Sources told Foreign Policy that he was asked to resign after Trump lost confidence in him following a string of departures of senior Pentagon policymakers.
In a tweet on Wednesday morning following reports of Rood’s resignation, the president wished Rood well and thanked him for his service. Rood’s resignation letter, a copy of which was obtained by NBC, reveals that Trump requested his resignation.
I would like to thank John Rood for his service to our Country, and wish him well in his future endeavors! https://t.co/kPA1rYCKvp
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper thanked Rood in a separate statement.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Jonathan Hoffman, a Defense Department spokesman, declined to say whether Rood’s resignation came at the direction of the White House but did say that the “president can make a decision to go in a different direction.”
While the specific reason for Rood’s resignation is still unclear, multiple reports have noted his connection to the security aid to Ukraine that became the focus of impeachment proceedings.
In his role at the Pentagon, which involved building partnerships and encouraging defense cooperation with US allies and partners, Rood certified to Congress that Ukraine was eligible to receive $250 million in security assistance. That aid was temporarily withheld at the White House’s direction last summer.
While the Trump administration has argued that it withheld the aid because of concerns about corruption, Trump was accused of using the aid to pressure Ukraine to advance his political aims.
In May, before the president decided to withhold the aid, Rood said in a letter to lawmakers that he “certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption, increasing accountability, and sustaining improvements of combat capability enabled by U.S. assistance.”
The letter, which was leaked in September, undermined the administration’s argument.
Rood expressed concern about withholding aid to Ukraine in an email to Esper following Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that set in motion Trump’s impeachment.
In the email, recently reviewed by CNN, Rood wrote that “placing a hold on security assistance at this time would jeopardize this unique window of opportunity and undermine our defense priorities with a key partner in the strategic competition with Russia.”
Ukrainian forces are fighting Russian-backed separatists in the country’s eastern region.
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and acquitted by the Senate earlier this month. Since his impeachment, Trump has taken steps to remove some officials from their posts.
Update: This post was updated with statements from the president and the Pentagon.