The first of what I assume will be many firings (and soon to be arrests?) has begun.
Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, just got terminated by Trump.
Take a look:
— Greta Wall (@GretaLWall) November 9, 2020
President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Monday that he has fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and that Christopher Miller, who serves as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will become acting secretary “effective immediately.”
Esper’s increasingly tense relationship with Trump led him to prepare a letter of resignation weeks ago, an attempt to fashion a graceful exit in the widely expected event that the President decided to fire him, several defense sources, including one senior defense official, told CNN.
Tensions between Esper and Trump also played out publicly and had been simmering long enough that the defense secretary had prepared a letter of resignation weeks ago, aware that the President could fire him by tweet at any time.
Esper had been on shaky ground with the White House for months, a rift that deepened after he said in June that he did not support using active-duty troops to quell the large-scale protests across the United States triggered by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Esper also said military forces should be used in a law enforcement role only as a last resort.
His remarks from the Pentagon briefing room were seen by many as an effort to distance himself from Trump’s threats to deploy the military to enforce order on American city streets and went over poorly at the White House, multiple people familiar with the matter said.
According to multiple administration officials, White House sentiment about Esper had been souring for some time, with both Trump and national security adviser Robert O’Brien viewing him as not entirely committed to the President’s vision for the military.
For months, Trump and O’Brien had been frustrated by Esper’s tendency to avoid offering a full-throated defense of the President or his policies, the administration officials said.
One administration source told CNN that Trump had no respect for Esper, leaving the defense secretary with little influence and little choice but to take his lead from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Trump went as far as to mock his defense chief’s derisive nickname of “Yesper” during a news conference in August, a moniker bestowed upon Esper by defense officials who believed he did not go far enough in standing up to the President’s more controversial decisions.
Privately, Trump had expressed frustrations about Esper for months, venting about him at length during a trip to Camp David earlier this year, according to multiple sources.
BREAKING: Pres. Trump has fired Defense Sec. Mark Esper, per a recent tweet. Esper was reportedly prepping a resignation letter last week. Christopher C. Miller will step in as Acting Secretary of Defense pic.twitter.com/8NF9kK1r1Y
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 9, 2020
Trump tweets that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper “has been terminated.” Graciousness to the end.
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) November 9, 2020
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The latest revelation comes as Trump refuses to accept the results of the U.S Presidential Election and on the heels of an NBC News report that Esper had prepped his resignation letter, bracing for an inevitable termination from the Trump administration.
In an extraordinary break with Trump, Esper told reporters in June that he did not support the invoking the Insurrection Act, a law from 1807 that would allow Trump to deploy active-duty U.S. troops to respond to civil unrest stemming from protests against police brutality across the country.
“I say this not only as secretary of Defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard, the option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire situations. We are not in one of those situations now,” Esper said.
“I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act,” he added.
Hours later, 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.