U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper's firing did not come as a surprise but that does not mean it was not a disturbing development in the last days of the Trump administration. Now, his interview following his departure signals a very big problem and warning alarm about what is to come as President Donald Trump begrudgingly goes through his lame-duck days.
Within an hour of his firing, Esper conducted a preemptive interview with Military Times in an effort to ring the alarm about the days ahead. Esper admitted that he was fired simply because he refused to be a Trump loyalist and adhere to the president's demands. Esper also expressed concern as he warned about the type of replacement to succeed him.
"I could have a fight over anything, and I could make it a big fight, and I could live with that," Esper said Wednesday, at a time when reports of his imminent firing were swirling. He added: "Why? Who's going to come in behind me? It's going to be a real 'yes man.' And then God help us."
He later added, "My frustration is I sit here and say, 'Hm, 18 Cabinet members. Who's pushed back more than anybody?' Name another Cabinet secretary that's pushed back," he said. "Have you seen me on a stage saying, 'Under the exceptional leadership of blah-blah-blah, we have blah-blah-blah-blah?'"
Contrary to what the Trump administration typically says about most former employees, Esper is not just some "disgruntled" former employee. The threat Esper is suggesting is very real and raises even more questions about the harm Trump's administration could cause. However, there were multiple occasions where he actually did praise the president's leadership.
In fact, Esper appeared on multiple conservative news outlets commending Trump's "bold leadership."
"I'd like to thank President Trump for his bold leadership and support to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces," Esper said while standing next to Trump at a Norfolk, Va., news conference back in March. "This is an unprecedented time for our nation, and your leadership is uniting the American people to defeat this virus."
Commending Trump may have sent the wrong message to the president which may also explain Trump's disapproval of Esper pushing back against his attempt to invoke the Insurrection Act. From that point, many suspected Esper would be on Trump's firing list somewhere down the line. Now, he is.