In the midst of a contested election, The Trump administration has moved to fire or replace numerous high-ranking officials in the US government. It is not clear if his plans are to influence the government as much as he can before he leaves, or if he is filling positions with loyalists so they will support his challenge of the election.
His most concerning leadership changes are those dealing with the Department of Defense.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that top Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, have been fired or forced to resign in the days since the election results were announced. After Esper’s departure was reported, four additional senior civilian officials with the Pentagon were also fired or forced to resign, including Esper’s chief of staff. Each high ranking official was replaced with someone who was loyal to Trump. The replacements included controversial figures like Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who once called former President Barack Obama a terrorist and has been known to share Islamaphobic conspiracy theories.
Esper was replaced by Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Inside sources believe that the Trump administration now plans to fire and replace Esper’s under secretaries.
In a statement on Tuesday, House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state, said 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 top policy professional in the Department resigning the day after the Secretary of Defense was fired could mark the beginning of a process of gutting the DoD — something that should alarm all Americans.”
It also appears that the Trump administration is planning on proceeding with policy as if they were heading into a second term. This week, The Washington Post reported that the White House told federal agencies to proceed with plans for Trump’s February budget.
Additionally, the Trump administration has refused to cooperate with Joe Biden on national security issues.
In a statement to NBC News, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it will not cooperate with the Biden transition until the General Services Administration decides it’s clear who won, a process known as “ascertainment.”
“ODNI follows the statutory direction provided in the Presidential Transition Act, which requires ascertainment of the candidate by the administrator of GSA prior to supporting a potential presidential transition. ODNI would not have contact with any transition team until notified by the GSA administrator,” the statement read.
Biden is also not receiving a daily brief from the president, as the president-elect traditionally would.
In a statement this week, Biden said that Trump’s lack of cooperation should not cause any major problems.
“Obviously the PDB would be useful but it’s not necessary. I’m not the sitting president now. Access to classified information is useful but I’m not in a position to make any decisions on these issues anyway. It would be nice to have it but it’s not critical,” he said.
The only time that this type of behavior has taken place in the White House was the 2000 Gore-Bush election, which was also contested by the incumbent.
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