Trump Fires Esper as US Defense Secretary

November 9, 2020 Updated: November 9, 2020

President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Nov. 9, and appointed Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to lead the Pentagon as acting secretary.

Trump announced Esper’s termination on Twitter.

“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately,” Trump wrote in a Twitter post. “Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”

The president didn’t provide a reason why Esper was fired. He was appointed by Trump in 2019 before he was nearly unanimously approved by the Senate in a 90–8 vote.

Miller was performing the “Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for SO/LIC and is former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism (SOCT),” according to the Defense Department’s website. “From March 2018 through December 2019, Mr. Miller served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and Transnational Threats at the National Security Council (NSC).

“In this position, Mr. Miller was responsible for strategic-level policy making and implementation, and support to senior NSC and White House leadership.”

Last week, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told news outlets that amid rumors and unconfirmed reports of Esper’s ouster or resignation, Esper had no plans to resign.

“He continues to serve the nation as the secretary of Defense at the pleasure of the president and is working on the irreversible implementation of the National Defense Strategy,” Hoffman said at the time. “The speculation about potential resignations of Cabinet officials is a tiresome, well-worn, DC-insider, post-election parlor game.”

Some members of Congress had called on Trump to retain Esper.

“For the good of our country and the brave men and women in uniform, I hope [Esper] will continue to serve for the remainder of the Trump presidency,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told Politico earlier this month.

Esper replaced James Mattis, who resigned after disagreeing with the Trump administration’s move to withdraw troops from Syria. Esper, 56, had been serving as Army secretary when Trump picked him in July 2019.