Donald Trump tweets that he has fired his defence secretary
Mark Esper ‘terminated’ by US president after clashes over response to street protests
Mark Esper, who has been fired as US defence secretary by Donald Trump. Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images
US president Donald Trump said on Monday that he had fired defence secretary Mark Esper, appearing to use his final months in office after his election defeat to settle scores within his administration.
Mr Trump had split with Mr Esper over a range of issues and was particularly angered by Mr Esper’s public opposition to the president’s threats to use active duty military forces this summer to suppress street protests over racial injustice after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Mr Trump, on Twitter, said Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, would become acting secretary of defence. The Senate would be highly unlikely to confirm any new nominee before Mr Trump leaves office in January.
“Mark Esper has been terminated,” Mr Trump said on Twitter, adding that Mr Miller would be acting secretary “effective immediately”.
The Pentagon had no immediate comment.
Sources said Mr Esper had long been preparing for the prospect of his resignation or dismissal following last week’s election, particularly if Mr Trump were to win a second term in office.
Mr Trump has steadfastly refused to acknowledge his election loss.
Mr Trump has had an uneasy relationship with the Pentagon, where Mr Esper and top brass have repeatedly sought to avoid being seen as a political instrument of the Trump administration.
Mr Esper’s predecessor, Jim Mattis, quit in 2018 over policy differences with Mr Trump, including on Syria. Mr Mattis in June criticised Mr Trump as the “first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us”.
Like Mr Mattis, Mr Esper also disagreed with Mr Trump’s dismissive attitude toward the Nato alliance and was wary of Mr Trump’s inclination to see US military alliances through an explicitly transactional lens even as he backed Mr Trump’s calls for allies to increase defence spending, sources said. – Reuters