Report: Obama Has Picked Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary, Announcement Expected Monday

President Barack Obama shakes hands with former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and first lady Michelle Obama look on during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, Monday, May 28, 2012, in Washington. (AP)

President Barack Obama has settled on nominating former Sen. Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and is expected to announce his decision on Monday, according to Politico.

Hagel has been widely presumed to be Obama’s pick to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, with multiple reports just days ago indicating the announcement would be sometime this week.

The Vietnam War veteran — who served as a Republican senator for Nebraska from 1997 to 2009 — was openly critical of the Iraq War and made an eyebrow-raising comment about not being intimidated by the “Jewish lobby.” He also referred to an ambassadorial nominee during the Clinton administration as “openly, aggressively gay,” a remark he apologized for in December. Obama has defended Hagel’s tenure in the Senate.

From Politico:

A Democratic aide described the White House’s logic for choosing Hagel, age 66: “Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero who would be the first enlisted soldier and Vietnam veteran to go on to serve as Secretary of Defense. He had the courage to break with his party during the Iraq War, and would help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end while building the military we need for the future.

“He has been a champion for troops, veterans and military families through his service at the VA and USO, and his leadership on behalf of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The President knows him well, has travelled with him to Iraq and Afghanistan, trusts him, and believes he represents the proud tradition of a strong, bipartisan foreign policy in the United States.”

Obama’s announcement is expected Monday as his first public appearance after returning from his holiday vacation with his family in Hawaii.