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Firing of defense secretary Mark Esper by Trump doesn’t mean there’s going to be a military coup in the US

© REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque; inset Mark Esper © Pool via REUTERS/Patrick Semansky

10 November, 2020.

President Trump’s firing of his defense secretary, Mark has suggested a precursor for an unconstitutional coup according to some.

In the usual habit, President Donald Trump announced the termination of his Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper and his replacement, Christopher Miller on Twitter, the tweet reads:

“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately. Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”

Despite the unceremonious and unconventional manner in which his departure was announced, Esper – had prepared a letter of resignation prior to the November 3 presidential election, eliminating the possibility that his departure was somehow directly linked to that event.

It is in the public that Esper had clashed with President Trump on a number of issues, including the renaming of US Army bases named after officers who had served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

However, the most likely reason behind Trump firing Esper, might be for a perceived act of disloyalty – the preparation of a resignation letter. The director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, John McEntee, has reportedly informed all Trump administration employees that they will be fired if it is found out they are looking for employment outside the administration.

Esper’s replacement, Christopher Miller, is a decorated combat veteran who has previously served the Trump administration as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and Transnational Threats at the National Security Council, as the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict and most recently the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

His appointment is not without controversy. 10 US Code § 132 requires that the deputy defense secretary assumes the job of secretary of defense “when the secretary dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office.” The current deputy secretary of defense is David Norquist.  Moreover, US law (10 US Code § 113) likewise bars anyone from holding the position of secretary of defense who has served as an officer in a regular branch of the armed services in the past seven years; Miller left the Army sometime in 2014.

Esper’s predecessor, James Mattis, had to have President Obama sign special legislation passed by Congress providing for a waiver to 10 US Code § 113 before Mattis could be confirmed by the Senate. Miller has not received such a waiver. The Constitutionality of 10 US Code § 113 has been questioned in some circles, although it is not known if President Trump is relying on such as the basis for his appointment.

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