Defense Secretary Mark Esper is reportedly on shaky ground with the White House after he openly defied President Trump on the use of military soldiers to aid in law enforcement.
As mostly peaceful protests have escalated into violent demonstrations, President Trump has vocalized that he is at least considering calling military forces to help overwhelmed law enforcement agencies across the country through the use of the Insurrection Act.
During a presser on Wednesday, however, Esper said he disagreed with the idea.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now,” Esper said.
Defense Sec. Esper: "I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act."
"The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now." pic.twitter.com/6MWkp2dFjr
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 4, 2020
CNN reports the comments are the latest in a tension between Trump and Esper:
Late Wednesday night, three sources told CNN that Esper will stay on the job for now. He was at the White House for a little under three hours earlier, where he had several meetings, including one in the Oval Office with Trump.
A senior Republican source told CNN that there has been ongoing tension involving Esper and that Trump has no respect for his defense chief. Esper has had little influence and essentially takes his lead from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the source said, adding that this latest press conference will undoubtedly make things worse.
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Trump and other top officials, including national security adviser Robert O’Brien, are “not happy” with Esper after his Wednesday remarks, three people familiar with the White House’s thinking said.
One White House official said aides there did not get a heads up about the content of Esper’s remarks, most notably Esper’s decision to publicly break with the President on the use of the military to address unrest in US cities.
Esper this a.m. said active duty troops should be only a last resort, angering WH officials and Trump personally with what they viewed as a matter of breaking rank. Trump isn't planning to use active duty troops right now, but didn't want Esper publicly ruling it out, I'm told.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 4, 2020
According to the report, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany would neither confirm nor deny if Trump was considering replacing Esper.
“As of right now Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper,” she told a group of reporters.
“With regard to whether the President has confidence, I would say if he loses confidence in Secretary Esper, I’m sure you all will be the first to know,” McEnany continued.
“Should the President lose faith, we will all learn about that in the future,” she added.
With Esper's job on line, GOP stumps for embattled Defense Sec
“He’s doing a good job,” said Graham. “There’s no reason to let him go."
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) June 3, 2020