President Trump in a pair of tweets Monday afternoon terminated his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and will replace the Pentagon chief with director of the National Counterterrorism Center Christopher Miller.
“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. Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service,” Trump tweeted.
…Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2020
The Pentagon chief who replaced James Mattis in July 2019 lost the respect of Trump after he publicly opposed the President threatening to deploy active-duty troops to quell the ongoing riots amid the death of George Floyd. In remarks to reporters, Esper said he did not support the invoking of the Insurrection Act, an 1807 act that allows the president to deploy active-duty U.S. troops to respond to civil unrest that was growing widely across the country.
“I say this not only as Secretary of Defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard, the option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire situations. We are not in one of those situations now,” Esper told reporters in a news conference on June 3rd. “I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
Last month, Esper lauded 10 NATO allies for meeting defense spending thresholds, but never mentioned that it was Trump who had urged a 2018 NATO Summit that NATO allies members commit to spending 2% or more of their GDP on defense.
Ten countries now meet the NATO goal of spending 2% GDP on defense. That’s twice the number that met the goal in 2016.— Dr. Mark T. Esper (@EsperDoD) October 22, 2020
Miller, a career military official, had been sworn in as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center in August. He previously served as the top counterterrorism policy official in the National Security Council under the Trump White House.
Other Cabinet officials are expected to be fired by Trump during the lame-duck session include CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray. According to one official, Trump could have fired both these officials if it weren’t for the “political headaches of acting before Nov. 3.” Both officials are widely despised and distrusted within Trump’s inner circle.