Despite Election Loss, Trump Fires Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a Tweet

Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will be acting Secretary of Defense starting immediately, according to the president

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Donald Trump listens to Mark Esper address the daily White House coronavirus response briefing with members of the administration's coronavirus task force at the White House, March 18, 2020.
Donald Trump listens to Mark Esper address the daily White House coronavirus response briefing with members of the administration's coronavirus task force at the White House, March 18, 2020.Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said Defense Secretary Mark Esper had been “terminated,” a stunning move on the heels of Trump’s failed reelection bid.

Trump has 70 days left: Will he shock the Middle East on the way out? Join Haaretz's special Zoom brief. Wed, Nov 11, 9 P.M. Israel time, 2 P.M. EST. *** Click here to set a reminder ***

Presidents who win reelection often replace Cabinet members, including the secretary of defense, but losing presidents have kept their Pentagon chiefs in place until Inauguration Day to preserve stability in the name of national security.

Trump announced the news in a tweet, saying that “effective immediately” Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will serve as acting secretary, sidestepping the department’s No.2-ranking official, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.

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

Trump has steadfastly refused to acknowledge his election loss.

Esper’s strained relationship with Trump came close to collapse last summer during civil unrest that triggered a debate within the administration over the proper role of the military in combatting domestic unrest. Esper’s opposition to using active duty troops to help quell protests in Washington, D.C., infuriated Trump, and led to wide speculation that the defense chief was prepared to quit if faced with such an issue again.

The Pentagon had no immediate comment.

Officials familiar with internal discussions say Esper has been ready to resign for months, and as rumblings about Trump’s unhappiness with him have grown, he’s taken additional steps to prepare to step down.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Comments