Days after a US poll defeat that President Trump refuses to accept, he took to Twitter to announce that the country was getting a new Defense Secretary. Christopher C Miller now takes over from Mark Esper as the Acting Secretary of Defense. The appointment, effective immediately, also comes in the wake of a media interview where Esper had said that he was not a "yes man" for the president.
"I am pleased to announce that Christopher C Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately," Trump said in a tweet on Monday. "Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service," he added.
Trump's first firing since Biden's win has raised the hackles of many, with speculation running rampant that the US leader intends to make many a change during his final months in office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opined in a statement that the abrupt firing was "isturbing evidence that President Trump is intent on using his final days in office to sow chaos in our American Democracy and around the world".
There are also reports that the changes have only just begun. As per a tweeted update by CNN journalist Jake Tapper that quotes a senior administration official, Esper is concerned that the President will now fire FBI director Christopher Wray and CIA director Gina Haspell.
Esper for his part kept his acknowledgement letter largely diplomatic, including a a list of accomplishments that Esper says occurred during his tenure, and avoiding any major criticism of Trump or his policies.
"I serve the country in deference to the Constitution, so I accept your decision to replace me. I step aside knowing there is much we achieved at the Defense Department over the last eighteen months to protect the nation and improve the readiness, capabilities, and professionalism of the joint force, while fundamentally transforming and preparing the military for the future," he said.
According to reports, Esper had been on shaky ground with the White House for months, a rift that deepened after he said in June that he did not support using active-duty troops to quell the large-scale protests across the United States triggered by the death of George Floyd by police. He also said military forces should be used in a law enforcement role only as a last resort. More recently, in an interview with The Military Times Esper had said noted that he was not simply an "yes" man.
"My frustration is I sit here and say, 'Hm, 18 Cabinet members. Who's pushed back more than anybody?' Name another Cabinet secretary that's pushed back," he told The Military Times. "Have you seen me on a stage saying, 'Under the exceptional leadership of blah-blah-blah, we have blah-blah-blah-blah?'" he had said.
(With inputs from agencies)