THE NEUTRAL ZONE
President Donald Trump terminated Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday, adding that Christopher C. Miller would replace him. In a tweet, Trump said that Miller is highly respected and was unanimously confirmed to his previous position as Director of the National Counterterrorism Center by the Senate.
Miller served in the military from 1983 to 2014, participating in combat in Afghanistan in 2001 and the second Iraq war in 2003. From March 2018 through December 2019, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and Transnational Threats at the National Security Council (NSC). Miller cannot be officially confirmed by the Senate until 2021 due to 10 U.S. Code § 113, which bars individuals from serving as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, “The abrupt firing of Secretary Esper is disturbing evidence that President Trump is intent on using his final days in office to sow chaos in our American Democracy and around the world.” She emphasized the need for continuity and stability during a presidential transition. Dov Zakheim, a former foreign policy adviser and undersecretary of Defense for George W. Bush, said that Esper seems like only the beginning and indicated that firings could continue up to Jan. 20. Trump has hinted he may remove FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
Esper’s strained relationship with Trump nearly collapsed following Esper’s opposition to using active-duty military troops to quell protests in U.S. cities over the summer. At the time, Esper said the Insurrection Act should only be invoked in the “most urgent and dire of situations,” adding that the U.S. was not in one of those situations. Though Esper has generally supported Trump’s policies, he was widely expected to quit or be ousted if Trump won reelection.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper ‘Terminated,’ Trump Says – HuffPost – 11/9/2020
Democrats said they were wary of what could come after the move. “Firing a secretary of defense in the last weeks of a lame-duck presidency serves no purpose and only demonstrates an instability harmful to American national defense,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Esper fires back: ‘Who’s pushed back more than anybody’ on Trump? – The Washington Times – 11/9/2020
Outgoing Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is proud of his record of standing up to President Trump and preserving his “integrity” amid a tense relationship with the White House, he said in an interview with the Military Times published Monday. The interview, conducted on Nov. 4, was released minutes after Mr. Esper was abruptly fired by Mr. Trump via Twitter. The president said he would install National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller as acting defense secretary.
CIA Director Haspel’s fate uncertain after Trump fires Esper – CNN – 11/9/2020
President Donald Trump and some of his conservative allies have become increasingly frustrated with CIA Director Gina Haspel in recent weeks, accusing her of delaying the release of documents they believe would expose so-called “deep state” plots against Trump’s campaign and transition during the Obama administration, according to multiple current and former officials.
Top Mueller Prosecutor Suggests Trump Is Gearing Up For A Military Coup – Daily Caller – 11/9/2020
Andrew Weissmann, a top prosecutor on the special counsel’s investigation, suggested on Monday that President Donald Trump fired his secretary of defense in order to pull off a military coup and remain in office. […] Weissmann said that Trump’s firing of Esper was “serious,” though he offered no evidence that president is setting the stage for a military coup to remain in office.