Trump Fires Defense Secretary Mark Esper By Tweet
Esper’s firing marks the first since significant White House termination since President Trump lost his bid for re-election to Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
President Trump announced by tweet on Monday that he has fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, declaring that the defense secretary “has been terminated.” The president said that Christopher C. Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will be acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately.
Esper’s firing marks the first since significant White House termination since President Trump lost his bid for re-election to Democratic opponent Joe Biden. Esper reportedly prepared a letter of resignation last week, as states were still counting ballots.
Trump has remained at odds with Esper since June, when the now-former secretary voiced his opposition to the use of active-duty federal forces to combat citizens protesting police violence.
In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the abrupt firing "disturbing evidence" that the president "is intent on using his final days in office to sow chaos in our American Democracy and around the world."
Esper was present for Trump’s notorious photo-op outside a church in Washington, D.C., but he and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley later condemned the action. Federal agents had used tear gas to disperse protesters for the photo op, which religious leaders also denounced.
Trump has since continued to clash with the top Pentagon official over the sudden removal of U.S. troops from Germany, the Pentagon’s ban on publicly displaying the Confederate flag on military installations, and Esper’s willingness to remove the names of Confederate generals from U.S. Army bases.
Notably, Esper also promoted Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the star witness to Trump’s impeachment trials, apparently aware of the backlash he would receive from the White House.
For months, Trump has been hinting at potentially firing Esper, who was his second Pentagon chief, though members of both parties strongly opposed the move. When asked about Esper’s tenure in August, Trump called him “Mark Yesper” and said, “I consider firing everybody. At some point, that’s what happens.” The president’s first Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis, is one of many former White House insiders to become a vocal critic of Trump. Mattis resigned in December 2018.
The Senate voted 90-8 to confirm Esper to the position in July 2019, “ending the longest period by far that the Pentagon had been without a permanent leader,” the New York Times reported.