President Donald Trump’s defense secretary, Mark Esper, has prepared a resignation letter, three current defense officials reportedly told NBC News on Thursday.
Esper and Trump have long had an abrasive relationship, and he reportedly expected to be pushed out of the administration even if Trump won reelection. It is reportedly not an uncommon practice for cabinet members to draft resignation letters ahead of a presidential election should the incumbent win and desire to switch up his cabinet members, according to NBC.
Esper’s office pushed back on the report, however.
“The speculation about potential resignations of Cabinet officials is a well-worn, D.C.-insider, post-election parlor game,” Jonathan Hoffman, the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs told NBC. “[Esper] continues to serve the nation as the secretary of defense at the pleasure of the president and is at the Pentagon today working on the irreversible implementation of the National Defense Strategy.”
Esper and Trump most recently had a public clash on the renaming of military bases currently named after Confederate military figures. Esper’s Pentagon drafted an order to rename the bases, which Trump struck down. Esper is now in the process of assisting legislators in Congress in drafting a bill that would rename the bases.
Esper also disagreed strongly with the president’s decision to use federal agents to quell unrest in cities across the U.S. this summer. (RELATED: Defense Secretary Says Trump Is Wrong — ‘I Do Not Support’ Mobilizing Military To Police Floyd Protests, Riots)
The report on Esper’s potential resignation comes a month after rumors that Trump himself planned to replace him in September with Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The rumors never came to fruition, however.