Following the dismissal of Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday and the resignation of James Anderson, Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy, on Tuesday, the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s administration was sowing “chaos and division.
The dismissal of Esper and the subsequent resignation of Anderson have led some to fear that Trump, who has so far refused to hand over the 2020 presidential election to President-elect Joe Biden, may try to surround himself with those who have shown loyalty to Trump.
In an apparent break with Trump’s decisions, Esper told reporters in June that he was against using military personnel on active duty to patrol demonstrations over the death of George Floyd. Anderson handed in his resignation on Tuesday. In a Tuesday statement, Smith said that the level of turnover in the upper echelons of the Pentagon could signal the beginning of a “gutting” of the Department of Defense.
“Once former Vice President Biden became President-elect Biden, President Trump and those loyal to him began to sow chaos and division. It seems that the chaos has now reached the Pentagon,” Smith wrote.
“If this is the beginning of a development – the president fires or forces national security experts to be replaced by people who are perceived to be more loyal to him – the next 70 days will be precarious at best and dangerous at worst,” Smith added.
According to a statement by the U.S. Department of Defense on Tuesday, Undersecretary of State for Intelligence and Security Joseph Kernan and Chief of Staff of the Department of Defense Jen Stewart also submitted letters of resignation on Tuesday.
Esper’s successor, Christopher Miller, director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, took office as acting secretary of defense on Monday.
Anderson’s duties are expected to be performed by Anthony Tata. In July, Tata was rejected by the U.S. Senate for the same office after some of Tata’s deleted tweets, which were of an Islamophobic nature, resurfaced.
Washington Newsday turned to the office of President-elect Biden for further comments.
The steps in the Pentagon may indicate a deepening determination on behalf of the Trump administration to prevent attempts by Biden’s camp to initiate the process of transition to the White House.
Although votes are still tabulated, projections show that Biden will win both the U.S. popular vote and the electoral college. The Trump administration has filed lawsuits in several contested states over the handling of postal ballots. Trump has claimed that the Democrats wanted to “steal” his election, although these allegations have so far been unfounded.
The White House has signaled that it would make a transition difficult for the Biden administration. Trump claimed victory in the election, as did Biden. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a press conference on Tuesday that there would be a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration. It was not immediately clear whether Pompeo was speaking facetiously.
During a question-and-answer session with reporters on Tuesday, Biden said that despite the White House’s refusal to acknowledge the Democratic victory, the transition was “in full swing.
“The government’s ability to acknowledge our victory in any way does not change the momentum and what we can do,” Biden said. “We will continue to move forward, to develop consistently, to put together our administration in the White House and to consider who we will choose for our cabinet positions”.