Trump says Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been ‘terminated’
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Monday on Twitter that he has “terminated” Defense Secretary Mark Esper, replaced by Christopher C. Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
The announcement came about five months after he and his Pentagon chief had a public break over how to handle civil unrest in America’s cities.
“Mark Esper has been terminated,” Trump tweeted. “I would like to thank him for his service.”
A Defense Department spokesperson declined to comment and referred CNBC to the White House.
In another tweet, Trump said Miller will serve as acting secretary, effective immediately.
Miller, who previously spent 31 years in the U.S. Army, was sworn in as director of the National Counterterrorism Center in August. Before that, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism. In that role, he was responsible for overseeing the employment of special operations forces in counterterrorism as well as personnel recovery and hostage issues.
It is unlikely the Senate will confirm Miller or a new nominee for the role before Trump leaves office in January.
Esper’s firing might not be all. A Trump administration official told CNBC’s Eamon Javers that “I assume FBI and CIA are next,” referring to FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
In an extraordinary break with Trump, Esper told reporters in June that he did not support the invoking the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law, to allow Trump to deploy active-duty U.S. troops to respond to civil unrest stemming from protests against police brutality across the country.
Hours after Esper’s statement, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump has the “sole authority” to move forward with the measure. When asked if the president was peeved by Esper’s comments at the Pentagon, McEnany gave a lukewarm response.
“I would say if he loses confidence in Secretary Esper I’m sure you all will be the first to know. As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper, and should the president lose faith, we will all learn about that in the future,” McEnany said at the time.
Esper, who was previously the secretary of the Army, ascended to Pentagon chief in June 2019.
His tenure followed the resignations of Trump’s first secretary of Defense, James Mattis, and then-acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly readies resignation letter amid push to rename bases.
From The New York Post
November 5, 2020 | 4:57pm
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has prepared a resignation letter in anticipation of being ousted by President Trump after the election, according to a report.
Esper has a rocky relationship with Trump.
He openly resisted Trump’s consideration of using active-duty troops to quell June riots. He’s also at odds with Trump on renaming military bases that honor Confederate leaders.
NBC News reports that Esper drafted the letter but did not say when he intends to submit it. It’s unclear if he intends to do so if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden defeats Trump. Many swing states are still counting ballots.
But the network reported that Esper is helping members of Congress draft legislation that will strip names of Confederate leaders from military bases and plans to work with Congress to put language in the annual National Defense Authorization Act so the name changes will be written into law.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman downplayed the reporting, telling the outlet that “speculation about potential resignations of Cabinet officials is a well-worn, D.C.-insider, post-election parlor game.”
Trump’s displeasure with Esper has been apparent for months.
“Mark ‘Yesper’? Did you call him ‘Yesper’?” Trump told a reporter at an August news conference when asked if he had confidence in Esper. “Some people call him ‘Yesper.’”
Trump said, “I consider firing everybody. At some point — at some point, that’s what happens.”
In September, Trump took another apparent shot at Esper, who is a former executive at weapons manufacturer Raytheon.
Trump said, “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t [happy] because they want to do nothing but fight wars so all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Trump routinely says the “military-industrial complex” disfavors his policy of withdrawing the US from “endless” wars.
“I think 19 years in Afghanistan is enough, wouldn’t you say?” Trump said at one of his final re-election rallies. “You think it’s easy getting out, with all the military-industrial complex?”