NBC News reported Thursday that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has prepared his letter of resignation.
According to NBC, “[i]’s not uncommon for Cabinet secretaries to prepare undated letters of resignation during a presidential transition, giving the commander in chief the chance to replace them for a second term,” if they choose. “But [D]efense officials say Esper prepared his letter because he is one of the Cabinet officials long expected to be pushed out after the election,” the outlet reported.
Staying out of it?
President Donald Trump first announced in July 2019 that Esper had been appointed to fill the role held by outgoing Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Although the president predicted in a tweet that Esper would “do a fantastic job” in his new role, the pair ended up having a contentious relationship.
In June, Esper was hesitant to voice support for President Trump’s decision to walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church immediately after federal authorities cleared protesters out of the area.
“Well, I — I did know that we were going to the church. I was not aware of a photo-op was happening,” Esper told reporters at a Pentagon press conference just days after the incident.
“Look, I do everything I can to try to stay apolitical and try and stay out of situations that may appear political,” the Defense secretary added. “And sometimes I’m successful at doing that, and sometimes I’m not as successful, but my aim is to keep the department out of politics to stay apolitical.”
“A matter of last resort”
As the summer of unrest continued, Esper also opposed the president’s plan to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, a piece of legislation that allows the deployment of federal troops to maintain order.
At the time, much of the country was engulfed in violent lawlessness, with rioters targeting residents and business owners. Among those killed was David Dorn, a retired St. Louis police officer who was murdered as he attempted to protect a friend’s store, according to NBC News.
Despite this, Esper suggested the situation wasn’t dire enough for federal forces to step in. “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 of situations,” he said, according to The New York Times.
“We are not in one of those situations now,” the Defense secretary claimed, confirming that he did “not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
If NBC is right that the Defense secretary is on his way out, many are no doubt wishing Esper had made that call much sooner.