Trump fires Defense Secretary Mark Esper

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The photo taken on July 16, 2019 shows U.S. Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper attending a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he has fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

"Mark Esper has been terminated," Trump tweeted. "I would like to thank him for his service."

The president said Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will be the Pentagon's acting chief "effective immediately."

The announcement came only days after a spokesman said Esper "has no plans to resign, nor has he been asked to submit a letter of resignation."

Esper, 56, began to lead the U.S. Department of Defense in mid-2019 after serving as secretary of the Army. His nomination won a bipartisan vote in the Senate.

During his tenure, the Pentagon official was at odds with the White House on several occasions.

Esper was recently helping U.S. lawmakers craft legislation to pull Confederate names from military bases, a move that Trump has publicly opposed.

This summer, when the president threatened to deploy active-duty troops to respond to nationwide demonstrations, Esper held a press conference in Pentagon making clear his opposition to the idea.

Miller, 55, was sworn in as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, aligned under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in August this year.

Most recently, Miller served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism.

The Trump administration's first defense secretary, James Mattis, resigned in late 2018 over policy disagreements with the president.

In May 2019, Trump announced an intent to tap Patrick Shanahan, then-acting defense secretary, to formally lead the department but that decision was reversed a month later when Shanahan said he was withdrawing.

In the U.S. federal government, the defense secretary oversees the Department of Defense and acts as the principal defense policy maker and advisor.

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