President Donald Trump said Monday that he has fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
In a pair of tweets, he announced that Christopher C. Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, has been named acting secretary, mentioning almost as an afterthought that Esper "has been terminated."
"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..
"Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service."
In appointing Miller, Trump sidestepped the department’s No.2-ranking official, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.
While Esper, 56, had worked with the president on controversial priorities such as sending U.S. troops to the border with Mexico and drawing down forces in Germany, Afghanistan, and Syria, the president voiced increasing dissatisfaction with his Pentagon chief in recent months.
The relationship came close to collapse over the 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.
Esper’s departure could foreshadow a broader post-election purge of appointees who displeased the president. It also means Trump will have seen the departure of two confirmed defense secretaries in less than two years.
This report contains material from Reuters and Bloomberg News.
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