Defense Secretary Mark Esper doesn't have the balls to resign after the catastrophe of Trump saying he'll use the military against Americans on US soil on Monday, but apparently he's at least going to complain about the knife Trump put in his back.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Wednesday that he does not support using active duty troops to quell the large-scale protests across the United States triggered by the death of George Floyd and those forces should only be used in a law enforcement role as a last resort, comments that came after President Donald Trump recently threatened to deploy the military to enforce order.
Esper's attempt to distance himself from Trump's view on using the military to restore order went over poorly at the White House, where he was already viewed to be on shaky ground, multiple people familiar with the matter said.
"The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act," Esper said during a briefing at the Pentagon.
Esper also addressed the killing of Floyd, calling it a "horrible crime" and said "racism is real in America, and we must all do our very best to recognize it, to confront it, and to eradicate it."
"The officers on the scene that day should be held accountable for his murder. It is a tragedy that we have seen repeat itself too many times. With great sympathy, I want to extend the deepest of condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd from me and the Department. Racism is real in America, and we must all do our very best to recognize it, to confront it, and to eradicate it," he said.
It's going to be a moot point anyway. As with Jeff Sessions and Jim Mattis, Trump will simply replace a cabinet member with somebody who will obey him, and Mitch McConnell will rubber stamp the transaction.
Trump and other top officials, including national security adviser Robert O'Brien, are "not happy" with Esper after his Wednesday remarks, three people familiar with the White House's thinking said.
In the press conference, Esper also distanced himself from a maligned photo-op outside St. John's Church.
One White House official said aides there did not get a heads up about the content of Esper's remarks, including most notably Esper's decision to publicly break with the President on the use of the military to address unrest in US cities.
The countdown until Esper is replaced begins in earnest, which may slow down Trump for a moment, but as soon as he finds somebody willing to carry out his orders as Acting SecDef, things could get ugly in a New York minute. Look at the havoc Richard Grenell wreaked as Acting DNI in just a couple of months.
Don't feel bad for Esper, however. He made the decision to work for Donald Trump, and that makes you just as morally repugnant as Trump is, if not more so.