Speaking to the news outlet Military Times last week, then-US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said, in particular, that he “could have a fight over anything” when it comes to his complicated relationship with President Donald Trump.
The interview was published on Monday, shortly after US President Donald Trump announced in a tweet that he was replacing Esper with Director of the National Counterterrorism Centre Christopher C. Miller, who will become the acting secretary of defence.
...Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2020
In an apparent reference to his differences with POTUS, Esper told the Military Times that “at the end of the day, it’s as I said — you’ve got to pick your fights”.
“[…] And I could make it a big fight, and I could live with that —why? Who’s going to come in behind me? It’s going to be a real ‘yes man’. And then God help us”, Esper added.
He underscored that he felt like going ahead with his job despite being at loggerheads with both Trump and the White House.
“Yeah, look, I mean ― my soldiers don’t get to quit. So if I’m going to quit, it better be over something really, really big. And otherwise, look, I’m going to do what I’ve always done, which is try and shape it the best I can”, the 56-year-old stressed.
The interview came as an assistant to the secretary of defence for public affairs, Jonathan Hoffman, refuted an NBC News report that Esper was planning to step down from his position, dismissing the information as "inaccurate and misleading in many ways".
With the official tally yet to be announced, Democrat Joe Biden was projected by major US news networks to be the winner, while Trump has refused to concede, claiming that voter fraud and other election irregularities are afoot.
Esper and Trump have recently been at odds, particularly after POTUS opposed the then-defence secretary’s order to strip Confederate leaders' names from US military bases and the 56-year-old’s criticism of the president’s plan to deploy troops to respond to US mass protests against police brutality and racial injustice.