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Defense Secretary Mark Esper's firing set off a string of departures. Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty

The Trump administration has placed White House loyalists in key positions at the Pentagon amid a reshuffling of multiple senior level defense officials this week.

Why it matters: "The decisions swept decades of experience out of the Pentagon..." the Washington Post writes. The post-election personnel changes are anticipated to complicate the transition for President-elect Joe Biden as President Trump refuses to concede.

  • Despite his loss, Trump is emboldened to ax anyone he sees as constraining him from enacting desired policies or going after perceived enemies, Axios' Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene write.
  • Intelligence officials and Democrats expressed their alarm at this politicization of the Pentagon. Democrats have demanded explanations for the shake-up and warned that the U.S. was entering “uncharted territory” during a presidential transition, per the Guardian.

The state of play: Trump announced on Monday that Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, would replace Defense Secretary Mark Esper after months of tension between the White House and Defense Department.

  • According to a Pentagon release, Kash Patel, who previously worked under Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), will serve as chief of staff to Miller, replacing Jen Stewart who sat in the role under Esper.
  • James Anderson resigned as acting under secretary of defense for policy and will be replaced by retired Army brigadier general Anthony Tata, who has been scrutinized for promoting conspiracy theories and calling former President Obama a “terrorist leader."
  • Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Joseph Kernan, a retired three-star admiral and Navy SEAL officer, submitted his letter of resignation effective immediately. The Pentagon's statement indicated his departure had been planned for months. Ezra Cohen-Watnick will take over for Kernan as acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security.

Of note: Biden has been shut out from intelligence briefings meant to prepare him for his transition, NPR reports.

What to watch: More firings are expected, including CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Go deeper

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

The top Republicans who have acknowledged Biden as president-elect

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Some elected Republicans are breaking ranks with President Trump to acknowledge that President-elect Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

Why it matters: The relative sparsity of acknowledgements highlights Trump's lasting power in the GOP, as his campaign moves to file multiple lawsuits alleging voter fraud in key swing states — despite the fact that there have been no credible allegations of any widespread fraud anywhere in the U.S.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

New deals in the COVID economy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 is the macro horror of our lifetimes, and has destroyed or severely damaged countless businesses. But, like with most horribles, it also has created some opportunities.

Driving the news: Merck this morning announced an agreement to buy OncoImmune, a Maryland-based biotech that showed promising late-stage clinical results for a therapy that treats severe and critical coronavirus cases.

2 hours ago - Technology

Biden's openings for tech progress

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images 

Item No. 1 on President-elect Joe Biden's day-one tech agenda, controlling the flood of misinformation online, offers no fast fixes — but other tech issues facing the new administration hold out opportunities for quick action and concrete progress.

What to watch: Closing the digital divide will be a high priority, as the pandemic has exposed how many Americans still lack reliable in-home internet connections and the devices needed to work and learn remotely.