‘Makes no sense’: Trump’s sudden firing
US President Donald Trump has fired Defence Secretary Mark Esper - the first of several sackings that could come in the wake of his election defeat.
"Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service," Mr Trump announced on Twitter, as is his custom.
Christopher Miller, who is currently Director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, will replace Mr Esper as acting defence secretary.
...Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2020
"It makes no logical sense whatsoever to fire someone who's highly qualified with literally weeks before you turn over this office," retired general Barry McCaffrey told MSNBC.
Mr Trump remains President until January 20, when Joe Biden will be worn in as his replacement.
"I'd say we ought to be apprehensive about what's going on.
"This is an unusual move ... the Senate's got to step up and ask, what is going on?"
Media reports in recent weeks have indicated Mr Trump also wants to get rid of FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney-General William Barr and CIA Director Gina Haspel. So this might not be the last firing of his time in office.
The week before the election, NBC reported that the now former defence secretary had prepared a letter of resignation.
In itself, that wasn't shocking news. All cabinet secretaries usually prepare resignation letters for the transition period, in a tradition that gives a re-elected president the option to replace them without any drama, should he choose.
However, NBC cited three Defence Department officials who said Mr Esper was expecting Donald Trump to get rid of him.
Like so many cabinet secretaries and White House staffers before him, Mr Esper had seen his relationship with the President deteriorate to a near unworkable level.
In June, the defence secretary said he did no support using military personnel to crack down on protests against police brutality across the country, and stressed they should be used as a last resort.
At the time, Mr Trump was threatening to deploy the military for that very purpose.
Mr Esper has also been working with both major parties in Congress to get military bases named after confederate generals renamed. Mr Trump fiercely opposes the idea, and brought it up repeatedly during the election campaign as an attack on America's "culture".
The Confederacy, of course, was the group of states which seceded from the US and fought against it in the Civil War.
The tensions between Mr Trump and Mr Esper were common knowledge in Washington by August, when a reporter asked the President about the situation during a media conference.
"You've had some differences with your defence secretary, Mark Esper. Do you have confidence in his leadership there?" they asked.
"Mark 'Yesper'? Did you call him 'Yesper'?" Mr Trump asked.
'Yesper' is a derisive nickname Mr Esper had earned for supposedly being a bit of a yes man.
"Esper," clarified the reporter, who had not used the nickname.
"Oh, OK. Some people call him 'Yesper'. No, I get along with him. I get along with him fine. He's fine," said the President.
"Are you considering firing him, Mr President?" someone asked.
"I consider firing everybody," he joked.
"At some point, that's what happens."
Another reporter asked whether Mr Trump expected to see more turnover in his cabinet.
"Well, I don't know. I think for next year - I mean, generally speaking, a lot of times I understand when, if we win, a president will ask for the resignation of everybody and then bring back the people he wants. That's happened before," he responded (correctly).
"And I could see something like that happening. I think that makes sense. No, I have a very good cabinet.
"I mean, with few exception. I wouldn't say I'm thrilled with everybody, frankly. But I have, overall, I think we have a very good cabinet."
Originally published as 'Makes no sense': Trump's sudden firing