‘Terminated’: President Trump Fires Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Long-Expected Move

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing concerning the Department of Defense budget in the Hart Senate Office Building on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Esper and Milley testified about the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2021 and the Future Years …
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday, in a long-anticipated move.

Trump announced the firing via Twitter. He also announced he was putting Christopher C. Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a former Green Beret, as acting secretary of defense “effective immediately.”

The relationship between Trump and Esper soured quickly after Esper preempted the president by declaring he did not support using active-duty forces to restore peace during a summer of violent riots.

Trump had not called for using troops, but had warned he might if the violence continued. However, Esper’s preemptive declaration made it more difficult for the president to use the threat of deployment of troops as a deterrent to rioters.

Esper’s statement had come after he received criticism from the left for walking with the president to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Park across from the White House.

The left claimed that Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley had drawn the military into politics by appearing with the president, despite Esper being a political appointee who serves at the behest of the president to carry out the president’s policies.

Esper — claiming to want to keep the military out of politics — had seldom, if ever, outwardly voiced support for the president during his tenure.

Esper, a former defense lobbyist, became the Army secretary when President Donald Trump first took office. He was a former classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at West Point.

However, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation in 2018 over policy differences with Trump set off a search for a new defense secretary that eventually ended with Esper’s appointment to the position.

During Trump’s tenure, the Pentagon had become a home for many Never Trumpers who took positions there and resisted the president’s positions, such as the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the Middle East, wanting allies to pay more for the presence of U.S. troops in their countries, and wanting to draw down forces from the African continent, among many other policies.

Esper has a long established career in Washington, DC, having served as a congressional staffer and a lobbyist for Raytheon before coming to the Pentagon.

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