Amid speculation of a purge targeting the “Swamp,” President Donald Trump abruptly fired his Pentagon chief, Mark Esper, on Monday.
The president announced that the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Christopher Miller, would take over the job “effective immediately.”
Trump frustrated with Esper
Trump was frustrated with Esper for his insubordination during the George Floyd riots, when Esper refused to invoke the Insurrection Act to quell the chaos.
“I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act,” Esper said in June. “I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations.”
Esper was rarely heard from in recent months, and he reportedly had prepared a letter of resignation before his firing.
On Monday, Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows gave Esper a call five minutes before Trump tweeted about his firing and replacement, and that was that.
“Chris will do a GREAT job!” Trump wrote. “Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”
President Trump has often had a rocky relationship with his generals: his first Pentagon chief, James Mattis, effectively defected to the #Resistance after leaving the White House and trashing the president as an unfit and divisive leader.
Esper told the Military Times that he would have resigned had Trump retaliated against Alexander Vindman, the Lt. Colonel who became an icon to the #Resistance for his impeachment testimony.
“At the end of the day, it’s as I said — you’ve got to pick your fights,” Esper said. “I could have a fight over anything, and I could make it a big fight, and I could live with that — why? Who’s going to come in behind me? It’s going to be a real ‘yes man.’ And then God help us.”
Esper’s firing has suggested the possibility of a purge of disloyal officials during what could be Trump’s final weeks in office, with possible names including FBI chief Christopher Wray and CIA chief Gina Haspel, who have both drawn the ire of Trump and his base for covering up corruption in the “Deep State.”