Just two days after major news networks declared the presidential race for Democrat Joe Biden, President Donald Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday, ending a turbulent relationship between the president and his top official at the Pentagon.
When he tweeted the news, Trump said that his director of the National Antiterrorism Center, Christopher Miller, would serve as Secretary of Defense “effective immediately.
“Chris is gonna do a BIG job!” Trump tweeted. “Mark Esper was fired. I want to thank him for his service.”
Esper’s dismissal, speculated over amid reports of a broken relationship between Esper and Trump, raised questions about how Trump will spend his remaining days in office during the President’s transition period and whether other officials will also find themselves on the chopping block. The dismissal came just 71 days before Biden was sworn in as the nation’s new commander-in-chief on January 20.
Among the speculation in Washington about who the president will fire before Biden becomes president is FBI Director Christopher Wray, whose relationship with Trump is also clouded by Trump’s public disparaging comments about Wray.
Esper was Trump’s second Secretary of Defense and was sworn in on July 23, 2019. He served for nearly 16 months. Trump reportedly became angry with Esper this summer when the Pentagon chief spoke out against the use of military forces to disperse American demonstrators in Washington, D.C., who were demanding racial justice reform.
James Mattis was Trump’s first Secretary of Defense. But since December 2018, when he resigned amidst tensions over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, Mattis has been a fierce, outspoken critic of his former boss.
Christopher Miller, who is to become acting Secretary of Defense, has been head of counterterrorism since August 10.
Past presidents have usually appointed their own defense ministers alongside other cabinet positions, but it is unprecedented for modern presidents to overthrow their top boss at the Pentagon after losing their re-election bid and before the new president takes office.