Pentagon’s top policy official resigns a day after Esper fired


Jim Anderson, the acting undersecretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon, resigned from his position Tuesday, just one day after President Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.

TRUMP FIRES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK ESPER

“I am particularly grateful to have been entrusted with leading the dedicated men and women of Policy, who play a key role in our Nation’s security,” Anderson wrote in his resignation letter, which was first obtained by Politico. “Now, as ever, our long-term success depends on adhering to the U.S. Constitution all public servants swear to support and defend.”

Anderson held the position for barely nine months after John Rodd was ousted from the position in February for perceived disloyalty to Trump. 

Sources told Fox News that Anderson’s leave paves the way for former Fox News contributor and retired Brig-Gen. Anthony Tata to serve in the acting role.

Tata was nominated to the position earlier this year, but the Senate ceased confirmation hearings even before they began due to a series of Islamophobic tweets that have since been removed from social media.

TRUMP ‘NOT BACKING DOWN,’ CAMPAIGN MANAGER SAYS

Tata will be “performing the duties of” the undersecretary job, rather than holding the “acting” title. Officials who carry the “acting” title have more authority than those who are “performing the duties of” the job, according to reports by the Associated Press. 

Sources also told Fox News that more firings and resignations are expected at the Pentagon in the coming weeks, as the White House tries to insert loyalists into key positions.

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On Monday, Trump appointed Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to take over Esper’s position. A day later, the president named White House National Security Council official and former congressional aide, Kash Patel, as Miller’s chief of staff, according to reports by the Wall Street Journal



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Mark Esper ‘terminated’ as secretary of defense in Trump tweet



Washington

President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday, an unprecedented move by a president struggling to accept election defeat and angry at a Pentagon leader he believes wasn’t loyal enough.

The decision was widely expected as Mr. Trump had grown increasingly unhappy with Mr. Esper over the summer, including over sharp differences between them on the use of the military during the civil unrest in June. But the move could unsettle international allies and Pentagon leadership, and injects another element of uncertainty to a rocky transition period as Joe Biden prepares to assume the presidency.

Presidents who win reelection often replace Cabinet members, including the secretary of defense, but losing presidents have kept their Pentagon chiefs in place until Inauguration Day to preserve stability in the name of national security.

Mr. Trump announced the news in a tweet, saying that “effective immediately” Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will serve as acting secretary, sidestepping the department’s No.2-ranking official, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.

“Chris will do a GREAT job!” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”

United States defense officials said Mr. Miller arrived at the Pentagon in the early afternoon to take over the job, and that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows informed Mr. Esper of the firing before Mr. Trump announced the move on Twitter. Other top defense and Pentagon officials, however, were caught by surprise and learned of the decision through the media. The defense officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

Mr. Trump’s abrupt move to dump Mr. 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.

The decision was quickly condemned by Democratic members of Congress.

“Dismissing politically appointed national security leaders during a transition is a destabilizing move that will only embolden our adversaries and put our country at greater risk,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “President Trump’s decision to fire Secretary Esper out of spite is not just childish, it’s also reckless.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, said firing Mr. Esper “in the last weeks of a lame duck Presidency serves no purpose and only demonstrates an instability harmful to American national defense.”

Former military leaders also weighed in. Jim Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral who served as a senior aide to Republican Donald Rumsfeld when Mr. Rumsfeld was defense secretary, wrote on Twitter that Mr. Esper’s firing made no sense.

“Things are already unstable internationally, and this does not help,” he wrote. “We need to try and create stability in transition time – hopefully opponents will not try and take advantage.”

Mr. Biden has not said who he would appoint as defense chief, but is widely rumored to be considering naming the first woman to the post – Michele Flournoy. Ms. Flournoy has served multiple times in the Pentagon, starting in the 1990s and most recently as the undersecretary of defense for policy from 2009 to 2012. She is well known on Capitol Hill as a moderate Democrat and is regarded among U.S. allies and partners as a steady hand who favors strong U.S. military cooperation abroad.

Mr. Miller has most recently served as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center and before that was a deputy assistant defense secretary and top adviser to Mr. 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, Mr. Miller worked as a defense contractor.

Mr. Esper’s strained relationship with Mr. Trump came close to collapse last summer during civil unrest that triggered a debate within the administration over the proper role of the military in combating domestic unrest. Mr. Esper’s opposition to using active duty troops to help quell protests in Washington, D.C., infuriated Mr. 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, Mr. Esper generally supported Mr. Trump’s policies but more recently he was widely expected to quit or be ousted if Trump won reelection.

Presidents historically have put a high priority on stability at the Pentagon during political transitions. Since the creation of the Defense Department and the position of defense secretary in 1947, the only three presidents to lose election for a second term – Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush – all kept their secretary of defense in place until Inauguration Day.

Mr. 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 Mr. Trump alternately praised what he called “his generals” and denigrated top Pentagon leaders as war-mongers devoted to drumming up business for the defense industry.

Mr. Trump soured on his first defense secretary, Mr. Mattis, who resigned in December 2018 over Mr. Trump’s abrupt decision – later rescinded – to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria, and then on Mr. Esper. The splits reflected Mr. 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.

During Mr. Trump’s tenure, the Pentagon has often been at the center of the tumult, caught in a persistent and erratic debate over the use of American forces at war in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and on U.S. soil, at the Mexico border and in cities roiled by civil unrest and rocked by the coronavirus.

Mr. Esper’s departure has appeared inevitable ever since he publicly broke with Mr. Trump in June over the president’s push to deploy military troops in the streets of the nation’s capital in response to civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd. Mr. Esper publicly opposed Mr. Trump’s threats to invoke the two-centuries-old Insurrection Act, which would allow the president to use active-duty troops in a law enforcement role. And Mr. Trump was furious when Mr. Esper told reporters the Insurrection Act should be invoked “only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” and, “We are not in one of those situations now.”

The June civil unrest initially drew Mr. 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 Mr. Trump hoisting a Bible. Critics condemned Mr. Esper, saying he had allowed himself to be used as a political prop.

Mr. 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.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.



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U.S. defence secretary Mark Esper fired, Trump announces on Twitter


U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Twitter on Monday that Mark Esper, his defence secretary, “has been terminated.”

Trump, who thanked Esper for his service, said Christopher Miller, who has been head of the National Counterterrorism Center, would serve as replacement.

The move adds more uncertainty to the transition period after the Nov. 3 vote. Trump has refused to concede last week’s election to president-elect Joe Biden, who is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Esper, 56, was confirmed in the role in July 2019. Previously the secretary of the U.S. army, he had succeeded interim leader Patrick Shanahan as the Pentagon’s top official.

Presidents who win re-election often replace cabinet members, including the secretary of defence, but losing presidents have kept their Pentagon chiefs in place until the inauguration to preserve stability in the name of national security.

WATCH l Transition figures to be unusual by modern standards:

The transition period between presidential administrations is the most perilous time in U.S. politics, even in less contentious times, says Rebecca Lissner of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies. 4:38

Since the creation of the Defence Department and the position of defence secretary in 1947, the only three presidents to lose election for a second term — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — all kept their secretary of defence in place until inauguration day.

Esper seemed prepared for departure

Esper’s departure has appeared inevitable ever since he publicly broke with Trump in June over the president’s push to deploy military troops in the streets of the nation’s capital in response to civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd. Esper publicly opposed Trump’s threats to invoke the two-centuries-old Insurrection Act, which would allow the president to use active-duty troops in a law enforcement role. And Trump was furious when Esper told reporters the Insurrection Act should be invoked “only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” and “we are not in one of those situations now.”

Mark Esper, centre, is seen along with U.S. Attorney General William Barr, U.S. President Donald Trump and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley, right, on the now-controversial photo-op outside a Washington, D.C., church during protests over the police custody death of George Floyd on June 1. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The June civil unrest initially 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 with Trump holding 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.

The defence secretary also encouraged a review of the naming of military installations after Confederate leaders, another action Trump expressed his opposition to.

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.”

Recently, Esper was widely expected to quit or be ousted if Trump won re-election. That impression was bolstered by the fact Military Times published an interview with Esper minutes after the firing on Monday, in which the ousted defence secretary talked about his tenure and disputed the notion he didn’t push back on Trump when warranted.

Biden reportedly considering Michele Flournoy for post

Before his current role, Miller was a deputy assistant defence 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 defence contractor.

Christopher Miller, the new man in charge, is shown Sept. 24 testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tom Williams/Reuters)

Biden has not said who he would appoint as defence chief but is widely rumoured to be considering naming the first woman to the post. Among the candidates is Michele Flournoy, who has served multiple times in the Pentagon, starting in the 1990s and most recently as the undersecretary of defence for policy from 2009 to 2012. She is well known on Capitol Hill as a moderate Democrat and is regarded among U.S. allies and partners as a steady hand who favours strong U.S. military co-operation abroad.

Trump’s first defence secretary, James Mattis, lasted until December 2018 before his departure, which was hastened by disagreements over U.S. policy in Syria. Trump’s abrupt decision to pull American troops out of Syria was later rescinded. 

Aside from the church controversy, during Trump’s tenure, the Pentagon has also been at the centre of debates over the use of American troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the U.S. border with Mexico border.



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About Mark Esper, Trump Quipped: I’ve Considered Firing Everybody



President Donald Trump indicated that no cabinet position was safe in his administration, suggesting he was open to some changes if he were to be re-elected in November.

“I consider firing everybody,” Trump said lightly to reporters when asked if he would fire Defense Secretary Mark Esper. “At some point, that’s what happens.”

The president reacted to reports that he and Esper had clashed several times over the summer over foreign policy and that Trump was considering firing him after the election. Esper made it known that he was planning to resign after the election.

Trump celebrated the success of his administration but hinted that he mike make some changes in his second term.

“I have a very good cabinet, with few exceptions,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled with everybody, frankly.”

Reuters reporter Steve Holland asked the president whether he was considering firing Esper.

“Did you say Mark Yesper?” Trump said, referring to a nickname reportedly used by Pentagon officials for the defense secretary.

“No, I get along with him,” Trump continued. “He’s fine.”



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