Talk grows of Trump firings at Pentagon, CIA

Talk is picking up that President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE could fire members of his Cabinet, including Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war The Biden administration and Tunisia: Off to a good start Overnight Defense: Navy pulls plug on 0 million railgun effort | Esper defends Milley after Trump attacks | Navy vet charged in Jan. 6 riot wants trial moved MORE, even as the presidential election goes uncalled.

Esper has long been seen as out-the-door regardless of who wins the election, including the possibility that he would resign during the transition period if Trump loses.

But firing him would give Trump a chance to flex his executive powers as it appears increasingly likely he could lose to Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE. It would also raise questions about the military chain of command during a fraught time in the United States.

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Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin reported Friday that multiple sources tell him Esper could be fired as early as this week.

A GOP source has echoed this expectation to The Hill that Esper may be gone as soon as this week, but another source familiar with the matter cautioned Friday morning that nothing is definitive.

A House Armed Services Committee aide said Friday the panel has not been “advised on any imminent personnel changes within Pentagon leadership.” The Senate Armed Services Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Pentagon on Friday referred The Hill to a statement issued the day before in response to an NBC News report that Esper has prepared a letter of resignation. In the statement, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Esper “has no plans to resign, nor has he been asked to submit a letter of resignation.”

“He continues to serve the nation as the secretary of Defense at the pleasure of the president and is working on the irreversible implementation of the National Defense Strategy,” Hoffman said in Thursday’s statement. “The speculation about potential resignations of Cabinet officials is a tiresome, well-worn, DC-insider, post-election parlor game.”

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Asked about chatter that Trump will soon fire Esper, White House spokesman Judd DeereJudd DeereHere's how presidents move into the White House in just hours on Inauguration Day Pence's relationship with Trump fractures in final days Trump stares down new impeachment threat MORE said Friday that “if the president doesn’t have confidence in someone he will let you know. The White House does not speculate or comment on personnel matters.”

Questions are also swirling as to whether FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections CIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director MORE will be ousted as well, as the president and his allies grow increasingly frustrated that the two top intelligence officials won’t wade into political matters. 

Trump and his allies have grown increasingly frustrated that officials like Wray will not meet the president’s calls for the launch of a formal investigation to examine the business dealings of his political opponent's son, Hunter Biden, or his resistance to firing officials tied to the 2016 Russia probe that Trump has alleged have acted improperly.

The president has long made clear he values loyalty over everything else. He's pressured intelligence officials to become involved in investigations or make statements that would benefit him.

Esper and Trump’s relationship soured considerably over the summer after the Defense secretary publicly split with Trump over deploying active-duty troops to quell nationwide racial justice protests. Trump had repeatedly threatened to do so, prompting Esper to announce his opposition to the idea at a Pentagon news conference.

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Esper’s move was said to have infuriated Trump to the point that the president had to be talked out of firing him then.

Since then, Esper has maintained a relatively low profile as he balanced leading the department and shielding the military from politics with trying not to provoke Trump further. 

Esper, who was confirmed as Trump’s Defense chief in July 2019, replaced James MattisJames Norman MattisWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Trump says Gen. Milley 'last person' he'd want to start a coup with Overnight Defense: Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld dies at 88 | Trump calls on Milley to resign | House subpanel advances Pentagon spending bill MORE, who resigned after disagreeing with the administration’s move to pull troops out of Syria.