Mark Esper: Trump fires Defence Secretary

It comes amid mounting speculation that senior leadership at the Pentagon face the axe

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 10 November 2020 02:09 GMT
Michael Cohen says Trump to flee White House at Christmas and never return
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Donald Trump has fired secretary of defence Mark Esper.

The president revealed the dismissal in a tweet announcing Mr Esper’s immediate replacement, the Director of National Counterterrorism Centre, Christopher C Miller.

“Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service,” Mr Trump said.

It comes after weeks of speculation that Mr Esper was among a number of high-ranking officials facing the axe regardless of whether Mr Trump won or lost the election, including FBI director Christopher Wray and CIA director Gina Haspel.

Mr Esper had already prepared a resignation letter in anticipation of leaving the role after long being at odds with Mr Trump on issues like using the military to quell protests over the summer, according to NBC News.

The firing comes as Mr Trump continues to contest the results of the presidential election, preparing to file lawsuits and take his claims of voter fraud on the road with a campaign-style rally tour across key states where his administration will demand recounts.

While cracks in the relationship between the two had been discussed privately for some time, they became public after Mr Esper refused to support the president’s suggestion in June that they could invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty troops in response to riots 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,” Mr Esper said at the time.

In response, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said only the president had the authority to determine if the Insurrection Act would be invoked.

“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,” Ms McEnany said at the time.

Mr Esper became defense secretary in July 2019 after acting secretary Pat Shanahan withdrew from consideration. Mr Trump’s first defence secretary, Jim Mattis, resigned in 2018 over the withdrawal of US troops in Syria.

At a press conference in August, Mr Trump referred to him as Mark “Yesper” while alluding to a possible termination.  

"Mark Yesper? Did you call him Yesper?" Mr Trump said. "I consider firing everybody. At some point, that's what happens."

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