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Trump loyalists Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie appointed to Pentagon business board

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Key Points
  • The Pentagon dismissed nine Defense Business Board members and replaced them with 11 new appointments on Friday, the latest shakeup in the Pentagon aimed at installing Trump loyalists.
  • Former Trump 2016 campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie are among the 11 new members.
  • Members of the Defense Business Board provide the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense as well as other senior leaders within the Pentagon with independent advice from a private sector perspective.
Former campaign senior adviser Of U.S. president Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski speaks to media to demand a fair count of the votes of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 5, 2020.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller dismissed nine Defense Business Board members and replaced them with 11 new appointments on Friday, the latest shakeup in the Pentagon aimed at installing Trump loyalists.

Former Trump 2016 campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie are among the 11 new members. Bossie was tapped in November to lead President Donald Trump's efforts to contest President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 election victory. Lewandowski has also helped with those efforts.

Members of the Defense Business Board provide the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense as well as other senior leaders within the Pentagon with independent advice from a private sector perspective.

The organization, created in 2002, is a way for representatives from corporate America to present new ideas to aid senior leaders with management decisions. The appointments are typically held between one and four years. It is not clear if the incoming Biden administration would replace any of the members announced Friday.

David Bossie, Donald Trump's deputy campaign manager and political activist, speaks during the SALT conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 18, 2017.
Richard Brian | Reuters

"Board members do not receive compensation," a Defense official told CNBC. "However, board members receive reimbursement of travel and per diem during dates of travel for board business," the official added.

Secretary Miller let nine Defense Board members — Michael Bayer, Arnold Punaro, Atul Vashistha, John O'Connor, David Venlet, Paul Dolan, Scott Dorn, David Walker and David Van Slyke — go because they "had been serving in expired positions," according to a Pentagon statement.

The Pentagon statement did not include explanatory details as to why the Trump administration decided to remove them from their roles now, less than 7 weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Trump has not conceded the U.S. presidential election to Biden.

"I want to thank each of these members for volunteering their time and talents in service to the Department of Defense and in turn, our country," Miller said in a statement announcing the decision.

Last month, the Pentagon elevated three Trump loyalists to powerful positions a day after the sudden termination of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

In a lengthy Nov. 10 statement, the Pentagon said that Anthony Tata, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Kash Patel had been promoted to key roles.

Tata, a retired Army general who became a pro-Trump pundit on Fox News, joined the Defense Department earlier this year. Trump had nominated him to a role that required Senate confirmation, but lawmakers opposed Tata in the role, and the president instead named him to an acting role that didn't require confirmation. Tata has a history of Islamophobic comments and has called President Barack Obama a "terrorist leader."

Cohen-Watnick is set to take over as the new acting undersecretary of Defense for intelligence and security, after Joseph Kernen resigned.

After being pushed out of the White House in 2017, following his tenure working for former national security advisor Michael Flynn, Cohen-Watnick rejoined the Trump administration earlier this year in a Pentagon role. Flynn was fired from his role and eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Cohen-Watnick also worked for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions before Sessions was fired in 2018.

Replacing Jen Stewart, the chief of staff to the Defense secretary, is Kash Patel, a member of the National Security Council. Patel was a staffer for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who worked to discredit the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Here is the Pentagon's statement:

Today, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller announced the appointments of Henry Dreifus, Robert McMahon, Cory Mills, Bill Bruner, Christopher Shank, Joseph Schmidt, Keary Miller, Alan Weh, Earl Matthews, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie to the Defense Business Board (DBB).

Individuals appointed to the Defense Business Board are selected for their expertise and executive management experience in the private and public sectors.  

"I'm proud to welcome each of these new members to the Defense Business Board and I look forward to their contributions to help guide the Department's business efforts in the coming years," said Acting Secretary Miller.

"These individuals have a proven record of achievement within their respective fields and have demonstrated leadership that will serve our Department, and our nation well." 

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