Pentagon sees flurry of resignations after Trump ousts secretary

A slew of Pentagon officials resigned Tuesday, a day after President Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, spurring a leadership shakeup at the Defense Department.

The new resignations came from the Pentagon’s top policy official James Anderson, the agency’s top intelligence official Joseph Kernan and Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart. All three submitted letters announcing their resignations, effective immediately.

“I want to thank Dr. Anderson, Admiral Kernan and Jen Stewart for their service to the nation and the Department,” acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in a statement. “Over their careers each has contributed greatly to the national defense and the future of the Department of Defense. We wish them the best in their next endeavors.”

The swift exits, which come a day after Trump fired Esper via Twitter, have raised fears that the administration is looking to quickly fill the Pentagon with loyalists who can help push through controversial executive actions in the roughly 70 days before Trump must leave the White House.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Tuesday that it is “hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition.”

The resignations “could mark the beginning of a process of gutting the DoD – something that should alarm all Americans,” Smith said in a statement released after Anderson departed.

“As soon as Former Vice President Biden became President-Elect Biden, President Trump and those loyal to him started to sow chaos and division. It appears that chaos has now reached the Pentagon.”

Smith also raised alarms over Anderson’s replacement, retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, Trump’s controversial nominee for the job.

Tata, a frequent Fox News commentator, this summer was forced to pull his name from consideration for the Pentagon’s top policy position when his past Islamophobic tweets resurfaced. In the tweets, Tata called Obama a “terrorist leader” and a “Manchurian candidate,” and called Islam the “most oppressive violent religion I know of.”

He was, however, placed as deputy undersecretary of policy in late July after his confirmation hearing was canceled.

“If this is the beginning of a trend – the President either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him – then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst,” Smith said.

“This confirms what I have been saying for months: The President’s singular obsession with loyalty has severely undermined the competence of our government and made us less safe,” he added. 

The other two vacated DOD roles were also quickly filled on Tuesday.

Kernan, a retired Navy vice admiral, had planned to resign for several months, according to the Pentagon. He was replaced with Ezra Cohen-Watnick, acting assistant secretary of Defense for special operation and low-intensity conflict. 

And Stewart was replaced with Kash Patel, currently on the National Security Council staff. Patel will now be chief of staff to Miller.

More resignations are expected in the coming days and weeks.

Tags Adam Smith Donald Trump ezra cohen-watnick Mark Esper Pentagon resignation

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