Amidst legal challenges to the vote counts in several key states, President Trump has refused to concede the election to Joe Biden who the media have “declared president-elect.” As I have noted, Trump is within his rights not to accept Biden as the winner until those challenges have ended, votes are certified, and a winner “ascertained” by the General Services Administration (GSA) under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963.
Or, until the Electoral College meets and votes for the president-elect in December. In the interim, Trump has begun major reshuffling of the top tier of Pentagon leadership.
As I reported earlier, Defense Secretary Mark Esper was ‘terminated” by President Trump on Monday and replaced by acting Secretary Christopher Miller, a former Army Special Forces officer, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and the Senate confirmed head of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The next day, several other top-ranking Pentagon officials were asked to resign and were replaced by so-called “Trump loyalists.”
Among them, a staunch conservative, solid thinker, Trump supporter, and friend since our days together at Marine officer school, Dr. James Anderson. He had been Acting Under Secretary for Policy since June, after Performing the Duties of Undersecretary since February.
Replacing him as the Pentagon’s top policy chief is retired Army general Anthony Tata whose nomination to that same job was withdrawn earlier this year because of controversial tweets he had made about Islam and President Barack Obama. In one tweet Tata said that Islam was the “most oppressive religion I know of,” which while contentious, is objectively not far off the mark.
Tata is now Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
In addition to Anderson, “Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Mr. Joseph Kernan and Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense, Jen Stewart submitted letters of resignation,” said a Pentagon statement issued Tuesday afternoon, reported by ABC News.
ABC News continued:
The statement added that Kernan had submitted his resignation Tuesday, “as planned for several months” and that he would be succeeded by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the current acting assistant secretary of defense for special operation and low-intensity conflict.
Stewart’s replacement as the chief of staff to the Defense Secretary is Kash Patel, who had been serving as a top official at the National Security Council.
Prior to his job at the White House Patel served as a top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee where he was involved in helping to discredit partisan investigations involving the Trump campaign and Russia. In his new role, Patel will manage access to the secretary of defense and most Pentagon decisions.
Then there is Cohen-Watnick, who is now Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. ABC News noted that he “has held several jobs in the Trump administration including a stint as a key aide to Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.”
Critics such as Mick Mulroy, an ABC News consultant who served as the deputy assistant secretary for the Middle East under Secretary James Mattis and Secretary Esper, bemoaned the major changes at the Pentagon, saying, “Replacing him [Secretary Esper] as well as other senior leaders now and all at once was not responsible nor consistent with ensuring stability,”
However, Mulroy also described Miller as “a consummate professional, highly intelligent and competent and absolutely dedicated to the nation,” adding, “He will be handed a very difficult job that I am sure he did not ask for. We should all get behind and support him.”
Meanwhile, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller quickly took charge, holding a secure video conference “with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, top combatant commanders, and top Pentagon civilians to lay out his plans for the next 71 days that he will serve in the post,” reported ABC News.