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Trump officially withdraws nominee to lead FEMA

The Hill logo The Hill 9/19/2019 Brett Samuels
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Trump officially withdraws nominee to lead FEMA © Getty Images Trump officially withdraws nominee to lead FEMA

President Trump on Thursday formally withdrew his nominee to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after reports surfaced indicating that his pick for the role had a personal issue.

The president notified the Senate that he was pulling the nomination of Jeffrey Byard, whom he'd tapped as the next leader of the agency in May.

Byard, who previously served as FEMA's associate administrator for Response and Recovery, had already been approved by the the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in June. But Politico first reported in recent weeks that Byard's nomination was in jeopardy as lawmakers looked into an accusation that he was involved in an altercation.

Trump is expected to pick acting FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor as his next nominee.

The agency has been without a full-time leader since the resignation of Brock Long, who stepped down in February amid ethics questions about his use of government vehicles.

The president was asked about the FEMA nomination aboard Air Force One on Wednesday night while flying back from a fundraising trip through California. Trump appeared to misunderstand the question before launching into an answer about FEMA's effectiveness.

"We think he would have been very good," he said. "But we're also very happy with the man who's acting, who has been acting."

He went on to praise FEMA for its preparations ahead of Hurricane Dorian last month, adding that the agency is "running very well."

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