(Headline USA) President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday, announcing the news in a tweet, saying that “effective immediately” Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will serve as acting secretary.
“Chris will do a GREAT job!” Trump tweeted. “Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”
Democrats and their allies in the leftist media, joined by the ranks of several NeverTrump resistance operatives, are trying to claim, falsely, that Biden has secured the presidency, flying in the face of precedent and election norms with counting and legal challenges still underway.
According to the National File, reports had flown that Esper was secretly helping the Biden transition team.
But it isn’t the first time in which Esper has undermined the commander-in-chief. There already was considerable speculation, even before the election, that Trump might give him the ax over past public attacks.
Concerns over untrustworthy advisers have been a particularly touchy matter for Trump throughout his first presidential term following the attempted 2017 coup referred to colloquially as ObamaGate.
Obama and Biden helped orchestrate the plot with Obama intelligence officials to undermine the incoming president and his administration with knowingly false claims of Russian collusion that had first been commissioned as opposition research by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Trump’s abrupt move to dump Esper triggers questions about what the president may try to do in the next few months before he leaves office, including adjustments in the presence of troops overseas or other national security changes.
Miller has most recently served as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Before that, he was a deputy assistant Defense secretary and top adviser to Trump on counterterrorism issues.
He has a long background with the military, having served as an enlisted infantryman in the Army Reserves and after that as a special forces officer. He also served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. After his retirement from the military, Miller worked as a defense contractor.
Esper’s strained relationship with Trump came close to collapse last summer during race riots and a protracted campaign of organized leftist unrest. Those events triggered a debate within the administration over the proper role of the military in combating domestic unrest.
Esper’s outspoken opposition to using active duty troops to help quell protests in Washington, D.C., infuriated Trump, and led to wide speculation that the defense chief was prepared to quit if faced with such an issue again.
During his roughly 16-month tenure, Esper generally supported Trump’s policies but more recently he was widely expected to quit or be ousted if Trump won reelection.
Esper, who was the official successor to former Marine Gen. James Mattis, routinely emphasized the importance of keeping the military and the Defense Department out of politics.
But it proved to be an uphill struggle as Trump alternately praised what he called “his generals” and denigrated top Pentagon leaders as warmongers devoted to drumming up business for the defense industry.
Trump soured on his first defense secretary, Mattis, who resigned in December 2018 over Trump’s abrupt decision — later rescinded — to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria, and then on Esper.
The splits reflected Trump’s fundamentally different views on America’s place in the world, the value of international defense alliances and the importance of shielding the military from domestic partisan politics.
The June civil unrest in Washington drew Esper into controversy when he joined a Trump entourage that strolled from the White House to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op featuring Trump hoisting a Bible. Critics condemned Esper, saying he had allowed himself to be used as a political prop.
Esper said he didn’t know he was heading into a photo op, but thought he was going to view damage at the church and see National Guard troops in the area. He was accompanied by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who later expressed public regret at having been present in uniform.
Trump hinted at Esper’s shaky status in August, making a snide response to a reporter’s question about whether he still had confidence in Esper’s leadership.
“Mark ‘Yesper’? Did you call him ‘Yesper?’” Trump said, in what appeared to be an allusion to suggestions that Esper was a yes man for the president.
Asked if he was considering firing Esper, Trump said, “At some point, that’s what happens.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.