Donald Trump is reportedly weighing replacing Mark Esper not long after the 2020 election, no matter who wins. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that the president has told those close to him that he’s thinking about making a change and getting rid of Esper, voicing his displeasure not with the secretary of defense’s performance on the job, but rather because he’s not defending Trump to the media enough.
Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg reported that even if he isn’t fired, Esper could be moving out before the new year. That means the cabinet member could be leaving the administration just a few months before his boss does.
Reportedly, Esper’s defense of the administration when it comes to situations like reports that Russia paid Taliban fighters “bounties” for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan has fallen short of what his boss would like to see.
Esper’s opposition to deploying U.S. troops in American cities earlier this summer also reportedly drew the ire of Trump. Jacobs said he confronted his defense secretary June 3 at the White House after Esper held a news conference in which he said that using active-duty military forces to perform law enforcement within the U.S. is “a matter of last resort” and that the National Guard was better-suited to the task.
Esper’s pushback came after the POTUS had threatened to send troops to several U.S. cities who were seeing protests having to do with Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd.
On Wednesday, the White House was asked about the rumors that Esper might be on the way out. David Badash of Raw Story found it interesting it didn’t give a specific denial. Instead, it issued a statement claiming the president had put together a fantastic team and cabinet. A spokesperson then added that it would be “inappropriate” to talk about staff changes before the election.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said it was Esper’s “highest honor and privilege” to serve the country.
“He first swore an oath to the Constitution as a West Point cadet over 38 years ago, and has done so many times throughout his adult life, in both war and peace, in uniform and out of uniform,” the spokesman said. “He continues that same commitment to duty, honor, and country today.”
Hoffman added that Esper understands that he serves only as long as he’s wanted in the office. A source close to him later told Jacobs that he would serve in his position until he was asked to leave.