Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump.
  • US President Donald Trump announced Monday evening, SA time, that he has fired his Secretary of Defence Mark Esper.
  • For months now, there has been talk of the president firing Esper or of the secretary resigning from his position as the top Pentagon official.
  • During the week of the presidential election, NBC News reported that Esper already had his resignation letter ready to go.
  • Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.

US President Donald Trump announced Monday evening, SA time, that he has fired his Secretary of Defence Mark Esper. It is the first major administration official he has fired since he lost the presidential election to his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.

The news of Esper's firing follows an NBC News report Thursday that said that Esper already had his resignation letter ready to go. It did not say when the letter was drafted.

The chief Pentagon spokesman challenged the NBC report, tweeting Thursday evening that "Secretary of Defense Esper has no plans to resign, nor has he been asked to submit a letter of resignation."

But, as of Friday morning, as the US president lost the election, reports began to emerge that Trump planned to remove his defense secretary, as well as some other senior officials.

Esper's departure from the Pentagon is an unsurprising development given numerous reports in recent months that Trump has soured on his defense secretary.

There has been frequent talk of the president firing him since June, when Esper broke with Trump on whether or not active-duty military should be deployed to American cities to nationwide quell unrest.

Trump was furious with Esper, who had previously frustrated the president and other administration officials by going off-message, according to multiple reports. Trump wanted to fire Esper, but he was ultimately talked out of doing so, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

In August, Bloomberg News reported that Trump had privately discussed firing Esper after the presidential election. The report also said that Esper had privately expressed an interest in stepping down.

A few days after the Bloomberg report came out, Trump was asked if he has ever considered firing Esper. He replied that he gets along with Esper, but he added, "I consider firing everybody."

In early September, NBC News reported that White House officials had been in discussion with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie about stepping in as the acting defense secretary should Trump fire Esper.

By October, more reports emerged suggesting that Esper's days at the Pentagon were coming to an end, with Axios reporting that Esper would be among several senior officials fired if Trump won re-election and then later The New York Times writing that "throughout the long corridors of the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is widely seen as a dead man walking."

Several defense sources told CNN Thursday that Esper has long had a resignation letter ready should the president request it, though he would rather stay in his current position.

Esper became the secretary of defense in the summer of 2019 after the top Pentagon position was held by acting officials for roughly seven months following the sudden departure of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned in December 2018 over disagreements with Trump on the importance of alliances and following through on commitments, among other things.

Prior to becoming Trump's defense secretary, Esper was the secretary of the Army, a branch of the US armed forces in which he previously served. Before setting up shop in the Pentagon, Esper, who has a doctorate in public policy from George Washington University, served as Vice President of Government Relations for defense firm Raytheon.

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