Overnight Defense: Trump reportedly considering replacing Esper after election | FBI, Air Force investigating after helicopter shot at in Virginia | Watchdog says UK envoy made inappropriate comments on religion, race, sex

Overnight Defense: Trump reportedly considering replacing Esper after election | FBI, Air Force investigating after helicopter shot at in Virginia | Watchdog says UK envoy made inappropriate comments on religion, race, sex
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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: The Pentagon could need a new leader come November.

Reports on Wednesday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE is considering replacing Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Overnight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military Overnight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers MORE after Election Day.

Bloomberg first reported Wednesday afternoon that Trump has privately said he intends to replace Esper after the election, citing unnamed people familiar with internal discussions.

One source told Bloomberg that, for his part, Esper has told people close to him that he intends to leave after the election regardless of the outcome.

Reuters later also reported that Trump has privately discussed the possibility of replacing Esper after the election.

Of course, if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Biden campaign sells 'I paid more income taxes than Trump' stickers Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose MORE wins, the Pentagon would almost certainly get a new Defense secretary in January regardless.

Soured relationship: You’ll recall that Esper has reportedly been on the outs with Trump since June. That’s when Esper voiced opposition to using active-duty troops against protesters after Trump repeatedly threatened to send in the military to quell demonstrations against racial injustice and police violence.

At the time, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany sidestepped questions about whether Trump continued to have confidence in Esper, saying that “as of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper. And should the president lose faith, we will all learn about that in the future.”

A week later, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was talked out of firing Esper over the split on how to respond to the protests.

Not denying: In a statement Wednesday, the White House did not refute the latest reports.

“President Trump has assembled an incredible team at the White House and across the federal government who have accomplished undeniable successes on behalf of the American people. We have no personnel announcements at this time nor would it be appropriate to speculate about changes after the election or in a second term,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a separate statement that Esper serves “at the pleasure of the president.”

"It is Secretary Esper's highest honor and privilege to serve the nation in defense of our great country,” Hoffman said. “He continues that same commitment to duty, honor and country today, recognizing that he serves the nation and leads the men and women of this department as secretary of Defense at the pleasure of the president."

AIR FORCE HELICOPTER SHOT AT IN VIRGINIA: The FBI and Air Force are investigating after an Air Force helicopter was shot at from the ground in Virginia, injuring a crew member and forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing.

McClatchy first reported the incident, which happened Monday when a UH-1N Huey helicopter assigned to the 1st Helicopter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews was a routine training flight near Manassas, Va.

The helicopter made the emergency landing early Monday afternoon at Manassas Regional Airport.

The crew member’s injuries were not life-threatening. He was taken to the hospital and later released.

The FBI Washington's field office “is working jointly with our law enforcement partners, including the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident,” the FBI said in a statement.

WATCHDOG: UK ENVOY MADE INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS: Trump’s envoy to the United Kingdom made inappropriate comments on religion, sex and race and threatened staffers' jobs if they disagreed with him, according to a watchdog report released Wednesday.

Robert “Woody” Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, was highlighted in the report as alienating staff, accusing them of being disloyal and making inappropriate comments that possibly violated employment laws.

The State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) report does not get into the specifics of the comments Johnson made that staff found inappropriate, saying that staff reported in interviews that the ambassador “sometimes made inappropriate or insensitive comments on topics generally considered Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)-sensitive, such as religion, sex, or color.”

Staff further said that Johnson was combative when he felt people were resistant to his suggestions, questioning staff intentions and implying that he might have them replaced. The OIG said that staff held back their best judgement in fear of the ambassador.

Background: The OIG report follows reporting last month by CNN that Johnson, the billionaire co-owner of the New York Jets, had made a number of racist and sexist remarks, such as questioning why African Americans need a Black History Month and suggesting women were cheaper labor who worked harder, among other allegations.

Johnson denied the claims at the time, writing on Twitter that he had “followed the ethical rules and requirements by my office at all times. These false claims of insensitive remarks about race and gender are totally inconsistent with my longstanding record and values.”

His actions further came under the scrutiny of the top Democrat with oversight of the State Department. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse panel halts contempt proceedings against Pompeo after documents turned over Engel subpoenas US global media chief Michael Pack The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE (D-N.Y.) called for Johnson to testify about his behavior in front of the panel by Sep. 30.

Disputed recommendation: The report recommended the State Department's Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs, working with the department’s Office of Civil Rights, assess the ambassador’s compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity laws and take appropriate action based on the review.

The bureau rejected the recommendation, the only one of 22 recommendations made in the OIG report it disagreed with, arguing that Johnson had taken steps to review the agency’s policies and training on workplace harassment and instructed staff to do the same.

The bureau further said the ambassador “is well aware of his responsibility to set the right tone for his mission and we believe his actions demonstrate that.”

The bureau said that it would work with the Office of Civil Rights to provide more training and advice to all staff, including the ambassador, to “heighten awareness on these important issues.”

The OIG considered the recommendation unresolved.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

U.S. Southern Command commander Adm. Craig Faller will participate in an Atlantic Council webinar on countering the Maduro regime at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/3iBN5kI

The Professional Services Council will host its virtual Defense Services Conference, featuring speeches by under secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment Ellen Lord, Joint Staff vice director for logistics Rear Adm. John Polowczyk and other defense officials, at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/33SOzTm

Maj. Gen. Joseph P. McGee, director of the Army Talent Management Task Force,, will participate in the Association of the U.S. Army’s Noon Report webinar at noon. https://bit.ly/3iyHcVi

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