Dismissed Defense Secretary Mark Esper rejected criticism that he was a "yes" man, telling the Military Times last week before he was removed as Pentagon chief that nobody pushed back against the White House and President Donald Trump in the Cabinet more than him.
"My frustration is I sit here and say, 'Hmm, 18 Cabinet members. Who's pushed back more than anybody?' Name another Cabinet secretary that's pushed back," Esper reportedly told the Military Times in a Wednesday interview that it did not publish until Monday. "Have you seen me on a stage saying, 'Under the exceptional leadership of blah-blah-blah, we have blah-blah-blah-blah?'"
Trump announced Esper was being fired and replaced by National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher C. Miller as acting defense secretary via Twitter on Monday.
Esper, 56, who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army, also served in the U.S. Army Reserve, both the Virginia and D.C. National Guard, and was secretary of the Army from 2017-2019. His dismissal or resignation had been rumored for months. He bristled when reacting to critics who nicknamed him "Yesper."
"At the end of the day, it's as I said — you've got to pick your fights," he said. "I could have a fight over anything, and I could make it a big fight, and I could live with that — why? Who's going to come in behind me? It's going to be a real 'yes man.' And then God help us."
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