TRUMP FIRES PENTAGON CHIEF MARK ESPER
President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, an unprecedented move by a president struggling to accept election defeat and angry at a Pentagon leader he believes wasn’t loyal enough, Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor reported for the Associated Press (AP).
The decision was widely expected as Trump had grown increasingly unhappy with Esper over the summer, including sharp differences between them over the use of the military during the civil unrest in June since the Pentagon chief squashed the lameduck president’s obsession with deploying troops to quell protests under the 1807 Insurrection Act. But the move could unsettle international allies and Pentagon leadership and injects another element of uncertainty to a rocky transition period as Joe Biden prepares to assume the presidency.
Democrats reacted with alarm, saying Trump’s move sent a dangerous message to America’s adversaries and dimmed hopes for an orderly transition as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali reported for Reuters. “The abrupt firing of Secretary Esper is disturbing evidence that President Trump is intent on using his final days in office to sow chaos in our American Democracy and around the world,” said House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rep. Adam Smith, the Democrat who leads the House Armed Services Committee, condemned Trump’s decision as “childish” and “reckless.”
Esper had written a letter of resignation two weeks ago but Trump denied him a graceful exit, tweeting that the Defense chief was “terminated” without citing a valid reason. Esper also thanked the military in a separate letter and said he had tried his best to prevent the armed services from being used for personal, partisan purposes. He did not thank Trump for giving him the defense portfolio.