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Mark Eser fired as Pentagon chief after contradicting Trump

  • Defence secretary resisted deployment of active-duty troops
  • Esper was criticised for joining Trump at controversial photo op

By Julian Borger

Donald Trump has fired his defence secretary, Mark Esper, in the latest sign that the transition to a new Biden administration in January is going to be turbulent on both domestic and foreign fronts.

Esper was fired by tweet on Monday afternoon, with the president declaring he was “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.”

Esper had been at odds with Trump on a number of issues, most importantly his insistence at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer that there were no legal grounds to deploy active-service troops on the streets of US cities.

He was also working with Congress on legislation to rename US army bases named after Confederate generals. In a final interview Esper predicted that he would be followed by a “yes man”, adding “And then God help us.”

Miller arrived at the Pentagon on Monday amid questions about the legality of his appointment. By law, the deputy secretary of defence, currently David Norquist, would become acting secretary in the event of a sudden departure at the top. Furthermore, the law requires that a secretary of defence to have been out of active duty military service for seven years. Miller, a former Green Beret, only left the military in 2014.

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