Trump fires Esper as defense secretary 6 days after election


WASHINGTON (CBS News) — President Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper over Twitter on Monday, announcing that the head of the National Counterterrorism Center would assume the role of acting secretary less than a week after the election.

“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,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”

Reports emerged last week that Esper had prepared a resignation letter, prompting the Pentagon to deny he was preparing to step down. But the defense chief had been at odds with the president for months.

Esper publicly contradicted Mr. Trump over the administration’s response to protests against racial injustice over the summer, saying in June that he did not support invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty military troops to the streets to quell unrest.

Officials told CBS News at the the time that Esper’s comments were not well-received at the White House, and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany pointedly declined to say the president still had confidence in his defense secretary.

“With regard to whether the president has confidence, I would say, if he loses confidence in Secretary Esper, I’m sure you all will be the first to know,” McEnany said at a briefing on June 3.

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