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Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will replace Mark Esper as acting secretary of Defense, President Trump tweeted on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump has clashed with Esper over a number of issues since the summer, and he was expected to be one of the first Cabinet secretaries to be removed after the election.

Between the lines: The Pentagon chief lost Trump's favor after he rebuffed the idea of sending active-duty military to deal with racial justice protests over the summer and distanced himself from the clearing of Lafayette Square protesters for a photo op at St. John's church.

  • Esper has also been working with Congress on legislation to remove the names of Confederate leaders from military bases, a move that has further put him at odds with the president, according to NBC News.
  • The change is effective immediately. Miller previously oversaw special operations forces in counterterrorism.

The big picture: Other Cabinet officials expected to be fired by Trump in the lame-duck session include CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Trump has also teased the idea of firing Anthony Fauci, but he would not be able to do so directly because Fauci is not a political appointee.

What they're saying: "I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately," Trump tweeted.

  • "Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service."

In an interview with the Military Times on Nov. 4, Esper — realizing that he was on his way out — pushed back on the notion that he was a "yes man" for the president.

  • “My frustration is I sit here and say, ‘Hm, 18 Cabinet members. Who’s pushed back more than anybody?’ Name another Cabinet secretary that’s pushed back,” Esper said. "Have you seen me on a stage saying, ‘Under the exceptional leadership of blah-blah-blah, we have blah-blah-blah-blah?’"
  • “At the end of the day, it’s as I said — you’ve got to pick your fights. I could have a fight over anything, and I could make it a big fight, and I could live with that — why? Who’s going to come in behind me? It’s going to be a real ‘yes man.’ And then God help us.”

Go deeper

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as FBI director

FBI Director Christopher Wray at a virtual DOJ news briefing on Oct. 28. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/pool/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as director of the FBI and has "confidence in the job he is doing," White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed in a tweet Thursday.

The big picture: Wray, who was nominated by former President Trump in 2017 after he fired former FBI Director James Comey, came under heavy criticism from Trump and his allies over the past year.

Updated 25 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker