Trump says Secretary of Protection Mark Esper has been "fired"


Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon March 5, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia.

Yasin Ozturk | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Monday that he had "resigned" Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, replacing Christopher C. Miller, director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center.

The announcement came about five months after he and his Pentagon chief took a public hiatus to deal with civil unrest in America's cities.

"Mark Esper has been quit," tweeted Trump. "I want to thank him for his service."

A Department of Defense spokesman declined to comment and referred CNBC to the White House.

In another tweet, Trump said Miller would serve as assistant secretary from now on.

Miller, who previously served 31 years in the US Army, was sworn in as director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center in August. Prior to that, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Counter Terrorism. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing the deployment of special counter-terrorism units and for recruiting and hostage-taking issues.

The Senate is unlikely to approve Miller or any new candidate for the role before Trump leaves office in January.

A spokesman for the Biden transition team declined to comment on Esper's dismissal.

Christopher Miller, director of the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), speaks during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in Washington, DC, the United States, on Thursday, September 24, 2020.

Joshua Roberts | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The steps come after Trump refuses to accept the presidential election results and shortly after a report by NBC News that Esper had prepared his resignation letter in preparation for an inevitable resignation by the Trump administration.

Esper's shot may not be everything. A Trump administration official told CNBC's Eamon Javers, "I assume the FBI and CIA are next," referring to FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel.

In an exceptional break with Trump, Esper told reporters in June that he did not support invoking the Insurrection Act, a law of 1807, to allow Trump to use U.S. forces on active duty to respond to civil unrest, resulting from protests against police brutality around the world.

"I say this not only as a defense minister, but also as a former soldier and former member of the National Guard. The option to use active forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a last resort." and only in the most urgent and worst situations. We're not in either of those situations now, "said Esper.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump listens during the daily coronavirus press conference at the White House on April 1, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Hours after Eser testified, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump had "sole authority" to drive the move forward. When asked if the President was upset by Esper's comments at the Pentagon, McEnany gave a lukewarm response.

"I would say that if he loses confidence in Secretary Esper you will all be the first to know about it. From now on, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper, and if the President loses confidence we will all find out." the future, "said McEnany at the time.

Esper, who was previously Secretary of the Army, rose to head Pentagon in June 2019.

His tenure followed the resignation of Trump's first defense secretary James Mattis and then acting secretary Patrick Shanahan.

James Mattis, Secretary of Defense, right, and Patrick Shanahan, Assistant Secretary of Defense, wait outside the Pentagon prior to an event in Washington, DC on Thursday, August 9, 2018.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Much like Shanahan, Esper rose to the helm of the largest federal agency with limited experience in foreign policy.

Prior to becoming Secretary of Defense, Esper was Raytheon's manager. He left the defense giant to become Secretary of the U.S. Army in 2017.

He is a graduate of the US Military Academy and served in the Army's 101st Airborne Division during the 1990-1991 Gulf War. After active service, he served in the Army Reserve and the Virginia and District of Columbia National Guard before retiring in 2007.

– CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.


Katherine Clark