Defense Secretary Esper ‘Committed to Serving As Long As’ Wanted by President: Source

August 12, 2020 Updated: August 12, 2020

Following reports claiming that President Donald Trump is looking to remove Defense Secretary Mark Esper after the election, the White House didn’t directly refute the allegations but said that it has no new announcements on personnel.

The reports alleged that Trump wasn’t pleased with Esper’s response after the president sought to deploy military troops to quell mass unrest, violence, and riots earlier this summer.

“President Trump has assembled an incredible team at the White House and across the federal government who have accomplished undeniable successes on behalf of the American people. We have no personnel announcements at this time nor would it be appropriate to speculate about changes after the election or in a second term,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement on Wednesday.

A source close to Esper told The Epoch Times that he is “committed to serving as long as the Commander in Chief wants him to.”

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman echoed the source’s claim, saying it’s Esper’s “highest honor and privilege to serve the nation in defense of our great country” and he recognizes “that he serves the nation and leads the men and women of this department as secretary of defense at the pleasure of the president.”

The speculation about Esper’s job was triggered by a Bloomberg News report this week, which said that Trump wants to replace him for his reluctance to deploy U.S. military troops to quell violent unrest and riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The report cited anonymous sources and people close to the Pentagon chief.

In a June 3 briefing, Esper told reporters that on the day that Trump visited a Washington church that was vandalized following Black Lives Matter protests, he wasn’t aware that the president would pose for a photo while holding a Bible.

Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church
President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John’s Church across from the White House in Washington on June 1, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

“I did know that following the president’s remarks on Monday evening that many of us were going to join President Trump and review the damage in Lafayette Park and at St John’s Episcopal Church,” Esper said. “What I was not aware of was exactly where we were going when I arrived at the church and what the plans were once we got there.”

The church was damaged in a fire that was allegedly set by rioters the night before.

The Wall Street Journal, also citing anonymous sources, reported that Trump was considering firing Esper about a week after the incident in June.

Esper was named to the post in 2019 after former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned after Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria.

Allen Zhong contributed to this report.