House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the sudden dismissal of Mark Esper on Monday, calling Donald Trump’s decision to dismiss the Secretary of Defense “disturbing” in a statement released shortly after the President’s announcement. The California Democrat suggested that Esper’s dismissal indicated Trump’s determination to sow discord in Washington before he left the White House.
“The abrupt dismissal of Secretary of Defense Esper is disturbing evidence that President Trump intends to use his last days in office to sow chaos in our American democracy and around the world,” Pelosi said in the statement. “Continuity and stability are always important during a presidential transition; they are absolutely essential at this moment as this historically erratic administration prepares to leave.
Trump announced Esper’s dismissal in a tweet on Monday afternoon. The President also said that Christopher Miller, a national security official who previously headed the Federal Counter-Terrorism Center, would replace Esper as acting Secretary of Defense.
“Chris will do a BIG job,” Trump wrote. “Mark Esper was fired. I want to thank him for his service.”
… Chris will do a BIG job! Mark Esper has been fired. I want to thank him for his service.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2020
Esper’s dismissal raised suspicions that others in the administration might be threatened with dismissal before Trump’s term ends in January and Joe Biden takes office. Since the election data began to tilt in Biden’s favor in the days after the polls closed, Trump has made numerous efforts to challenge the election results.
While it is not expected that the handful of lawsuits supported by his campaign will hold up in court, many believe that the president will not quietly leave office. In light of Esper’s dismissal, some are suggesting that the president dismiss other federal officials with whom he clashed during his time in the White House.
“It is worrying that reports show that this dismissal was an act of retaliation by the President, allegedly because of Secretary Esper’s refusal to send military troops on active duty to suppress peaceful demonstrations against police brutality,” Pelosi said in Monday’s statement. She was referring to reports of Trump’s outrage after Esper’s calls for the military to be sent to areas where protests broke out during the summer were quashed.
“Most worrying, however, is that the timing of this dismissal raises serious questions about Trump’s planned actions for the last days of his administration,” continued the House spokeswoman. “Time and again, Trump’s recklessness endangers our national security. It is disturbing and dangerous that at this precarious moment our military is now led by an official who has not been confirmed for this position by the Senate.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, Deputy Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, shared Pelosis’s concern. In a separate statement, he urged Trump not to remove any more intelligence or security officers who had previously been confirmed by the Senate.
“I am deeply concerned that President Trump has dismissed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper just 72 days before a new president takes office and during a spreading global pandemic,” Warner said. “There is no doubt that our opponents are already looking for vulnerabilities that they can exploit to undermine America’s global leadership and national security during this transition period.
Washington Newsday turned to the White House for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.