In a Tweet posted this afternoon, President Trump announced that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had been fired. He added that “effective immediately” Christopher C. Miller, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, would become the Acting Secretary of Defense.
Clashes between Esper and Trump can be linked back to June following the President’s decision to use military force to quell demonstrations against police brutality, as well as conflicting views over the handling of the pandemic. During this time, President Trump sought to invoke the Insurrection Act which would call active duty troops to quell the demonstrations. However, senior military officers and Esper resisted deploying the troops, insisting that the military should be the last resort.
This unprecedented decision is expected to rattle international allies and Pentagon leaders as it destabilizes the Capitol during a transition of power. Previous presidents leaving office have declined to replace their Pentagon chiefs in the interests of national security, but this unexpected move raises questions regarding what else Trump might do on his way out of office.