Three anonymous Pentagon officials told NBC Thursday afternoon that Esper was preparing to retire from his role as Pentagon chief regardless of which candidate is declared the winner.
While it is not uncommon for the heads of US government departments and their associated agencies to depart from their roles along with the administration that appointed them, Esper is almost certain to be swept away even if Trump emerges victorious, thanks to his repeated butting of heads with the real estate mogul-turned chief executive.
Bloomberg reported Esper had notified people close to him of his impending departure as early as August. Weeks prior, Trump and Esper had suffered a major falling out after Trump reversed an order by Esper to rename several US military bases named after heroes of the Confederacy, a failed breakaway movement from the United States that lasted between 1861 and 1865 and aimed to preserve the legal enslavement of Black people.
"The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline," Esper said in a July memorandum announcing the Confederacy's battle flag could no longer be flown on military bases. "Consequently, in addition to the American flag, Service members and civilian employees are authorized to display or depict representational flags that promote unity and esprit de corps."
According to the Pentagon officials that spoke with NBC, Esper has himself doubled down on the issue, furnishing a "written framework" for renaming bases presently named after Confederate figures that would bar naming an installation after someone who had not met certain criteria, such as if they had been convicted of a felony offense or failed to attain a certain rank or receive a certain medal.
Although the 2020 presidential election was held on Tuesday, the results remain unclear as an unprecedented amount of mail-in ballots have frustrated declaring the winner of an extremely close race between Trump and Biden. While Biden has a clear advantage in terms of the popular vote, he has not attained the necessary votes in the Electoral College to have won, and Trump has already declared himself the winner and filed numerous lawsuits in states where ballot counting continues, claiming voter fraud and other election irregularities are afoot.