WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump announced via Twitter the firing of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
“Mark Esper is fired. I would like to thank him for his service, “Trump wrote on Monday.
Esper was expected to continue during the transition period until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden in January 2021, although rumors of his sacking had been circulating in Washington for weeks before.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows notified Esper of his resignation in a phone call Monday before the president’s tweet, a Defense Department official told Voice of America.
Trump tweeted that National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller will “immediately” take over as Secretary of Defense.
Shortly after this announcement, Miller arrived at the Pentagon and met with Esper. He is authorized to act as head of the military under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act 1998, which allows the president to appoint a Senate-approved executive from the executive branch to the vacant position as interim interim.
In a farewell message to Department of Defense officials Monday night, Esper noted progress in the implementation of the National Defense Strategy, which shifted the Pentagon’s focus to modernization and competition with nearly equal Russia and China.
“Focus on your mission, remain unwavering in your pursuit of excellence, and always do what is right. By following these imperatives, you will remain the most trained, respected and efficient military force in the world, ”he wrote, addressing the military and civilian personnel of the Ministry of Defense.
According to some reports, tensions between Trump and Esper arose after the disagreements in June. Days after the president threatened to use active military personnel to suppress protests against police violence and racial injustice, Esper publicly declared his opposition to such moves.
Democrat deputy chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Intelligence, Democrat Mark Warner, said he was “deeply concerned” about the dismissal, which came amid the global pandemic and only 72 days before Trump is expected to leave the White House.
“The last thing our country needs is fresh upheaval in the institutions designed to protect our national security,” Warner said.