In an interview with the Military Times on November 4, Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed that he had no intention of stopping unless something “really big” happened.
“Yes, you see, I mean – my soldiers must not stop,” he told the newspaper. “So if I stop, it better be because of something really, really big. And otherwise I’m going to do what I’ve always done, which is try to make it as good as I can.
Rumors about Esper’s possible resignation circulated earlier this month following a report on November 5 by NBC News, which said the defense minister had written a letter of resignation.
Jonathan Hoffman, Esper’s deputy secretary of public affairs, subsequently informed Washington Newsday that Esper had no intention of resigning.
“Secretary of Defense Esper has no plans to resign, nor has he been asked to submit a letter of resignation,” Hoffman said. “Speculation about a possible resignation of cabinet members is an annoying, hackneyed post-election DC insider game.
President Donald Trump fired Esper on Monday and posted the news on Twitter, two days after major news channels had called the 2020 presidential race for Joe Biden.
He said that his director of the National Antiterrorism Center, Christopher Miller, would be the acting secretary of defense “effective immediately.
“Chris is gonna do a BIG job!” Trump tweeted. “Mark Esper has been dismissed. I would like to thank him for his service.”
Esper was Trump’s second secretary of defense and was sworn in on July 23, 2019. He served for almost 16 months. Miller became head of counter-terrorism on August 10.
James Mattis, Trump’s first Secretary of Defense, resigned in 2018 amidst tensions over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
Like Mattis, Esper was increasingly at odds with the president and made statements that at times contradicted the official line taken by the White House.
In June, Esper resisted Trump’s threats to call U.S. troops against nationwide protests following the death of civilian George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Esper said he did not believe such a move was necessary.
Another split occurred in August after Trump tweeted that he “totally rejected” a cost-cutting Pentagon plan to cut $2.2 billion from military health care, Politico reported. Esper later said that he had not agreed to the cuts in the first place.
A third tug-of-war between Esper and Trump occurred earlier this month when NBC News reported that Esper was working with lawmakers to amend the National Defense Authorization Act linguistically to rename bases named after Confederate leaders. Trump has strongly opposed this plan….