President Removes Mark Esper As Defense Secretary After Troubled Relationship

( Monday, President Donald Trump fired Mark Esper, the defense secretary, making the announcement on Twitter.

He tweeted:

“Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”

In a separate tweet, the president announced Esper’s replacement, writing:

“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately.”

Prior to Trump’s announcement, chief of staff Mark Meadows reportedly warned Esper that he would be removed.

Some people have said that this firing signals that Trump plans to be active still in his remaining two-and-a-half months in office. Some of Trump’s aides have said the president could remove Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, as well as Gina Haspel, the director of the CIA.

Esper sent a letter to employees of the Defense Department as well as troops through the Pentagon late on Monday, which read:

“I want to thank you all for living up to that standard, for remaining apolitical, and for honoring your oath to the Constitution.”

Trump and Esper have had a few public run-ins ever since the president named him to the position in July of last year. This summer, the relationship between the two began to unravel quickly, with Trump even publicly mocking him at a press conference for his willingness to accommodate the president’s wishes.

In a November 4 interview, Esper addressed this, saying:

“My frustration is I sit here and say, ‘Hmm, 18 cabinet members. Who’s pushed back more than anybody?’ Name another cabinet secretary that’s pushed back. Have you seen me on a stage saying, ‘Under the exceptional leadership of blah-blah-blah, we have blah-blah-blah-blah?'”

Esper and Trump were at odds over a number of issues. One was the removal of Confederate names and emblems at military installations. Esper said he was open to re-naming the 10 military bases that are named for Confederate generals, but Trump publicly lambasted him for that.

Esper also set a rule that said only flags that were approved by the Pentagon could be displayed at military installations, and that did not include the Confederate flag. The president has long said he believed the flag was a matter of free speech and wasn’t racist.

The two also differed over the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general, in January 2020. The president said it was done because of an “imminent threat” to embassies. Esper, though, said he hadn’t seen any evidence of threats, saying instead four U.S. embassies were only potential targets.

Things seemingly came to a boiling point in early June, when the president made the now infamous walk through Lafayette Square to St. John’s Church, where he then posed for photos while holding a Bible. Esper was at that photo shoot. He initially said he wasn’t aware he’d be making the trek with Trump, only to clarify to say he was aware he’d be going, but didn’t know what the president planned to do while at the church.