President Donald Trump has fired Mike Espers, who publicly disagreed with Trump’s desire to use military troops on American protesters.
“President Trump on Monday fired Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, the latest casualty in the president’s revolving door of top national security officials who fell on the wrong side of their boss.
Mr. Trump announced the decision on Twitter, writing in an abrupt post that Mr. Esper had been ‘terminated.’
The president wrote that he was appointing Christopher C. Miller, whom he described as the “highly respected” director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to be acting defense secretary. Mr. Miller will be the fourth official to lead the Pentagon under Mr. Trump.
The president noted that Mr. Miller had already been approved by the Senate for his current position, perhaps as a way to argue that the firing of a defense secretary should not be viewed as a sign of turmoil in the highest ranks of the nation’s national security structure.
Mr. Esper’s departure means that Mr. Miller would — if he lasts — see out the end of the Trump administration at the Pentagon. While Mr. Trump has over two months left in office, it could still be a significant time, as Defense Department officials have privately expressed worries that the president might initiate operations, whether overt or secret, against Iran or other adversaries in his waning days in office.
Friends and colleagues praised Mr. Miller’s Army Special Forces background and counterterrorism credentials but expressed surprise that he had been elevated to such a senior position, even in a temporary capacity. And while he is not considered an ideologue, Mr. Miller does not have the stature to push back on any extreme positions that Mr. Trump might advocate in his final weeks in office, colleagues said.
‘A move like this probably sends a chill through the senior ranks of the military,’ Nicholas J. Rasmussen, a former top counterterrorism official in the Bush and Obama administrations, said in an email. ‘Not because of anything about Chris Miller personally, though it’s a highly unconventional choice, to be sure. But simply because a move like this contributes to a sense of instability and unstable decision-making at exactly the time when you want to avoid sending that kind of message around the world.’
Mr. Miller is a former Army Green Beret who participated in the liberation of Kandahar early in the war in Afghanistan. He also previously served as the top counterterrorism policy official in the National Security Council under the Trump White House. After that job, he briefly served in a top counterterrorism policy role at the Pentagon this year.
He has been part of the Trump administration’s musical chairs on national security posts. It was only in August that Mr. Miller was named to replace Russ Travers, who was the acting head of the counterterrorism center.
Mr. Miller began his military career as an enlisted infantryman in the Army Reserve in 1983. He also served as a military police officer in the District of Columbia National Guard. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1987 and became an Army Green Beret in 1993.
In addition to his deployment to Afghanistan, he also served in Iraq in 2003, both with the Fifth Special Forces Group.
In announcing that he was firing his defense secretary, Mr. Trump sought to reclaim even a bit of the postelection narrative, which has been dominated by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
But Mr. Esper’s downfall had been expected for months, after he took the rare step in June of disagreeing publicly with Mr. Trump and saying that active-duty military troops should not be sent to control the wave of protests in American cities. The president, who had threatened to use the Insurrection Act to do exactly that, was furious, officials said.
Mr. Esper’s spokesman tried at the time to walk back the damage, telling The New York Times that Mr. Trump did not want to use the Insurrection Act either, or he would have invoked it already. “We fail to see the disconnect,” said Jonathan R. Hoffman, a spokesman for Mr. Esper.
White House officials disagreed.”
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