Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan steps down from the confirmation process

Shanahan said "I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family's life."
4:03 | 06/18/19

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Transcript for Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan steps down from the confirmation process
And we begin with that explosive headline today. The sudden and unexpected departure. Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan abruptly withdrawing from the confirmation process. Shanahan disclosing a history of domestic violence incidents involving his family, and now questions tonight about the vetting process. Did president trump know? The decision to step down comes amid growing tensions between the U.S. And Iran and just 24 hours after the Pentagon announced it would be sending an additional 1,000 troops. ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz leading us off. Reporter: Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan delivered the stunning and unexpected news to the president in the oval office this morning. He would be withdrawing his name from the confirmation process. Although the president did offer to defend him. He's a terrific person. And it's a difficult time for pat. But he's going to take a little time off for family service and for working things out. Reporter: And it is his family that is at the center of Shanahan's resignation. The acting secretary saying in a statement, "I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family's life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal." A "Traumatic chapter" involving charges of domestic violence less than ten years ago. "The Washington post" reports police were called to the Shanahan house to find him with a bloody nose. Both Shanahan and his then wife, Kimberly, accusing each other of physical violence. Police only arrested Shanahan's wife. He later dropped the charges. I'd like to acknowledge my three children who have accompanied me here today. Reporter: In 2011, an even more alarming incident involving his then 17-year-old son, will, in a violent altercation with his mother. ABC news obtaining the arrest report, which described will "Grabbing a baseball bat" and "Striking the back of her head." Police say she attempted to defend herself by "Firing his air gun pellets" at him. The incident left her unconscious on the floor "With a bloody head wound, fractured elbow and fractured skull." "The post" reports Shanahan wrote a memo to a family member in support of his son at the time of the incident, which said "Use of a baseball bat in self-defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force, however, will's mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident." Shanahan telling "The post" he now regrets that statement, saying he didn't know the extent of his ex-wife's injuries and was trying to keep his son out of jail and does not believe the attack was self-defense or justified. Tonight, the president facing questions about when he knew about these incidents and why they didn't come out in the vetting process for the acting defense secretary. I had heard about it yesterday for the first time. We have a very good vetting process. And you take a look at our cabinet and our secretary is very good. But we have a great vetting process. Reporter: The white house naming a knew nominee, the widely respected army secretary, mark Esper, who will need senate confirmation. Martha, with mark Esper moving to the acting defense secretary role, there are a number of top positions at the Pentagon that have not gotten senate approval. Reporter: In addition to the defense secretary, there's the deputy defense secretary, the air force secretary and the chief management officer. Of course, it comes at a time of escalating tension with Iran. Shanahan just approved those 1,000 additional troops yesterday to the region. But the president tried to assure everyone today about the situation in Iran, saying the administration, David, is very well set. David? It is still unsettling timing, all of this. Martha, thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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