President Donald Trump has privately said he intends to replace Secretary of Defense Mark Esper after the November election, people familiar with internal discussions told Bloomberg News.
But Trump’s plans may not matter anyway. A Bloomberg source also said Esper has told people close to him that he intends to resign from his position regardless of November’s election results.
Trump’s frustration with Esper intensified in June when he broke with the President’s call to invoke the Insurrection Act to quell social unrest following the police killing of George Floyd. Days after Trump’s infamous tear-gassing photo op outside of a church on June 1, Esper held a news conference rejecting the use of active-duty military forces to do the work of law enforcement, saying the dispatch of military troops would be “a matter of last resort” and that the National Guard was better-suited to the task.
According to a CNN report following Esper’s remarks at the time, Trump and other top officials were “not happy” with the top defense official.
Trump has also grumbled that Esper hasn’t done enough to publicly defend him on recent reports regarding alleged bounty intelligence that Russian operatives had offered rewards to Taliban-linked militias in Afghanistan to kill American and coalition troops.
In spite of private murmurs about Esper’s potential departure, White House spokesman Judd Deere told Bloomberg News Wednesday that the White House had “no personnel announcements at this time nor would it be appropriate to speculate about changes after the election or in a 2nd term.”
If he departs after the election in November, Esper will have been in the role for less than a year and a half.