Mark Esper fired as Pentagon chief after contradicting Trump
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Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Monday that he has fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and that Christopher Miller, who serves as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will become acting secretary "effective immediately."
The President jettisoned Esper two days after his Democratic opponent Joe Biden was projected as the winner of the presidential election, a conclusion that Trump has refused to accept.
Esper's increasingly tense relationship with Trump led him to prepare a letter of resignation weeks ago, an attempt to fashion a graceful exit in the widely expected event that the President decided to fire him, several defense sources, including one senior defense official, told CNN.
Esper's firing has raised concerns that other top national security officials who have earned Trump's wrath may be next in the line of fire.
Trump and some of his conservative allies have become increasingly frustrated with CIA Director Gina Haspel in recent weeks, accusing her of delaying the release of documents they believe would expose so-called "deep state" plots against Trump's campaign and transition during the Obama administration, according to multiple current and former officials.
Haspel has refused, arguing that declassifying the documents would endanger US national security by revealing crucial methods and sources.
In recent months, Trump and his allies have also sharply criticized FBI Director Christopher Wray over his failure to produce information that they claim would be harmful to the President's political enemies, including Biden. The prospect that Trump may fire Wray has hung over the FBI for weeks, CNN has reported.
Shortly before Trump's tweet landed early Monday afternoon, the President's chief of staff Mark Meadows called Esper to tell him he was about to be fired and replaced, sources tell CNN.
Esper responded to Trump in a letter dated Monday, which said, "I serve the country in deference to the Constitution, so I accept your decision to replace me."
"I step aside knowing there is much we achieved at the Defense Department over the last eighteen months to protect the nation and improve the readiness, capabilities, and professionalism of the joint force, while fundamentally transforming and preparing the military for the future," Esper added in the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by CNN.