Trump's 'unusual' move may signal what's to come next

Yahoo News Staff
·3-min read

US President Donald Trump has sacked Defense Secretary Mark Esper, appearing to use his final months in office after his election defeat to settle scores within his administration.

There are fears the sacking could trigger a flurry of dismissals, with the move branded as “unusual”.

“It makes no logical sense whatsoever to fire someone who’s highly qualified with literally weeks before you turn over this office,” former US Army officer and Clinton cabinet member Barry McCaffrey told MSNBC.

“I’d say we ought to be apprehensive about what’s going on.

“This is an unusual move... the Senate’s got to step up and ask, what is going on?”

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper walks out to welcome Britain's Secretary of State of Defence Ben Wallace before their meeting at Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been fired by Donald Trump via Twitter. Source: Reuters

Trump split with Esper over a range of issues and was particularly angered by Esper's public opposition to Trump's threats to use active duty military forces this summer to suppress street protests over racial injustice after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Trump said on Twitter that Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, was taking over as acting secretary of defence. The Senate would be highly unlikely to confirm a new nominee before Trump leaves office in January.

"Mark Esper has been terminated," Trump said in a tweet, adding that Miller would be acting secretary "effective immediately".

A US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows called Esper to alert him that Trump would be firing him through Twitter.

Sources said Esper had long been preparing for his resignation or dismissal following last week's election, particularly if Trump were to win a second term in office. Trump, a Republican, has steadfastly refused to acknowledge his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat.

U.S President Donald Trump returns to the White House after news media declared Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden to be the winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Donald Trump is still refusing to concede the US election. Source: Reuters

Trump’s decision labelled as ‘childish’ and ‘reckless’

Representative Adam Smith, the Democrat who leads the House Armed Services Committee, condemned Trump's decision as "childish" and reckless.

"Dismissing politically appointed national security leaders during a transition is a destabilising move that will only embolden our adversaries and put our country at greater risk," Smith said.

As Trump put into motion a quick, unceremonious exit for Esper, Miller arrived at the Pentagon building just an hour or so after Trump's announcement – before the Pentagon itself had even issued a statement acknowledging Esper's dismissal.

It was unclear if Esper was still in the building at the time Miller arrived.

Trump has had an uneasy relationship with the Pentagon, where Esper and top brass have repeatedly sought to avoid being seen as a political instrument of the Trump administration.

Esper's predecessor, Jim Mattis, quit in 2018 over policy differences with Trump, including on Syria. Mattis in June criticised Trump as the "first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people - does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us."

Like Mattis, Esper also disagreed with Trump's dismissive attitude toward the NATO alliance and was wary of Trump's inclination to see US military alliances through an explicitly transactional lens even as he backed Trump's calls for allies to increase defence spending, sources said.

with Reuters

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