Trump defence secretary has prepared resignation letter even before final election results, reports say

Spokesman for top civilian Pentagon leader denies his boss wants to make an early exit from Trump Administration

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Thursday 05 November 2020 22:08 GMT
Joe BIden arrives in Wilmington, Delaware for campaign meeting
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Defence Secretary Mark Esper has prepared a letter of resignation for Donald Trump even though former Vice President Joe Biden has not yet been declared the next commander in chief, according to NBC News.

The Pentagon’s top civilian official has clashed with Mr Trump on several hot-button issues, including whether to rename military bases named for Confederate generals and officials.

It is not uncommon for Cabinet officials to offer to step down after a presidential election. But they typically so after a winner has been declared in the race for 270 Electoral College votes.

Mr Biden has yet to hit the magic number, moving to 264 in the Associated Press’s count on Wednesday.

The country is waiting for state and local officials in a small handful of competitive swing states to complete their counts, including Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Political experts say Mr Biden essentially has locked up Nevada, which would put him over the 270-vote threshold with its six electoral votes, because outstanding ballots are from Clark County. That includes Las Vegas and is heavily Democratic.

Notably, Mr Esper’s final act, should he offer to step down soon and Mr Trump accept, likely will rile the boss.

He is working with lawmakers to get language in the must-pass Pentagon policy bill that would etch into law, should the president sign it, a plan to rename military installations named for Confederate generals, NBC reported. Mr Esper initially mulled issuing a directive under his powers as defence chief, but the network reported he instead chose to try making the plan law.

A law would be harder to overturn because it would require enough lawmakers in both chambers voting to nix such language amid the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

NBC cited multiple current and former officials, but a spokesman for Mr Esper told the network he is not resigning.

“The speculation about potential resignations of Cabinet officials is a well-worn, D.C.-insider, post-election parlor game,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, in a statement. "[Secretary Esper] continues to serve the nation as the secretary of defense at the pleasure of the president and is at the Pentagon today working on the irreversible implementation of the National Defense Strategy.”

“As is normal and expected, the department works with Congress to provide the administration’s concerns and views regarding proposed defense-related legislation — particularly when House and Senate versions of defense bills are being reconciled and finalized. This does not indicate support for previously proposed legislative language. Out of respect for the members of Congress who have sought technical assistance in good faith, we generally do not discuss these efforts.”

The president and his latest defence chief also have clashed on the use of US military troops to quell protests this year over perceived racial inequality. Mr Esper participated in, but later apologized for, accompanying the president to a church near the White House for a Bible-hoisting photo op after federal police used tear gas and pepper balls on peaceful protesters to clear the area.

As the Pentagon boss prepares the confederate bases plan, he is concerned word of it and his outreach to Congress will get back to the West Wing, prompting the president to fire him.  

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