Esper moved for months with the White House in June saying he could not justify the use of active-duty forces to quell large-scale protests across the United States that were triggered by the death of George Floyd. In the hands of the police. Esper also said the military should be used only as a last resort in the role of law enforcement.
His remarks from the Pentagon briefing room were seen as an attempt to distance himself from Trump’s threats to deploy the military to enforce order on American city streets and went poorly at the White House, many people familiar with the matter said.
According to multiple administration officials, White House sentiment about Esper has been simmering for some time, with both Trump and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien feeling that the president’s vision of the military is not fully committed.
Administration officials say Trump and O’Brien have been frustrated for months by Esper’s tendency not to fully protect the president or his policies.
An administration source told CNN that Trump had no respect for Esper, leaving the Secretary of Defense with less influence and less choice and should be led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
At a news conference in August, Trump went so far as to mock his defense chief’s mocking nickname “Esper”, giving defense officials a moniker to Esper, believing he had not gone too far to stand for more controversial decisions.
Privately, Trump has been frustrated for months about Esper, who came out at length on a Camp David tour earlier this year, with multiple sources informing him.
Trump publicly lashed out at the Pentagon leadership in September, accusing it of trying to wage wars to boost the profits of defense contractors. An angry Esper called White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to file a complaint, defense officials said. Meadows soon appeared on television and tried to reverse Trump’s remarks, saying his broader side against Pentagon leaders was not specifically directed at anyone.
Esper and Trump disagreed on whether to rename military bases respected by Confederate generals. Esper defended the name change. The president refused to accept the idea.
The Senate voted 90-8 in July 2019 to ratify Esper, making him Trump’s second Senate-certified Secretary of Defense. He followed James Mattis, who resigned in December 2018 over Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria amid the fight against ISIS, leaving the Kurdish allies and expelling American troops from the war-torn country.
This story is broken and updated.