US 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.”
The President jettisoned Esper two days after his Democratic opponent Joe Biden was projected as the winner of the presidential election, a conclusion that Trump has refused to accept.
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 said.
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.
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.
Esper and Trump also differed over the highly charged issue of whether to rename military bases that honor Confederate generals.