President Trump reportedly came close to firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper after the Pentagon official broke with the President over invoking the Insurrection Act to quell the violence that emerged during nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Last week, Esper contradicted Trump’s demand for governors to “dominate” protesters by activating the National Guard. Esper also argued that active duty forces should only be used in a law enforcement role as a “last resort.” CNN reported that Trump and other top officials were “not happy” with Esper following his remarks.
According to a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday citing several administration officials, advisers and allies on Capitol Hill talked the President out of firing Esper. Officials told the Journal that Trump was “furious” over the defense secretary’s opposition to invoking the Insurrection Act.
The officials also told WSJ that Trump consulted several advisers — which included White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; longtime Trump friend and outside adviser David Urban; and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and James Inhofe (R-OK) — about their opinion regarding Esper’s stance, and Trump intended to fire the defense secretary that day.
After speaking with advisers — who warned the President against firing Esper because it would put his administration in a tough spot — Trump held off, the officials told WSJ.
Esper, however, began preparing a letter of resignation at the same time, officials told WSJ. The defense secretary considered resigning in light of his differences with the President regarding the military’s role, but aides and other advisers convinced him not to do it.