President Donald Trump confronted his Defense secretary, Mark Esper, after the Pentagon chief publicly opposed the idea of deploying the military to contain protests, according to people familiar with the matter.
Separately, the president later asked top advisers if they thought Esper could still be effective in his position, two people familiar with the discussions said on Wednesday night.
At a news conference within the afternoon, the president’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, tiptoed around whether Esper’s job was safe, saying only that he remained in their post.
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon immediately responded to requests for reply to Wednesday night.
Esper met with Trump in the Oval Office after telling reporters with the Pentagon that active-duty military forces to execute law enforcement within the US is “a few last resort” and this the National Guard was better-fitted to the work.
On Monday, Trump had threatened to deliver military forces to cities and states that neglect to quell violence spiraling from protests over the death in Minneapolis last week of your black man in police custody.
The defense chief also appeared to back away from his boss by proclaiming that while he knew he can be joining Trump simply to walk into Lafayette Square ahead of the presidential residence on Monday, he was not aware of specific plans, including what might happen when the group reached St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Trump has been criticized by religious leaders and Democrats, as well as some Republicans and former military officials, for that holiday to the historic church, where he stood briefly holding up a Bible after security forces cleared peaceful protesters through the area using pepper balls and smoke cannisters.
Wasn’t briefed on a specific plan since he was called back to the White House after heading toward a command center at the Department of Justice, even though esper said at the Pentagon on Wednesday that he thought he would be reviewing damage in the plaza and at the church.
“I did know we had been going to the church. I have done not know a photograph op was happening,” Esper said.
His remarks generated irritation on the White House, where three Trump aides who asked not to be identified said the secretary must have moderated his comments to get a smaller distinction with the president.
Later Wednesday, a blistering denunciation of Trump by his first Defense secretary, Jim Mattis, was published by The Atlantic.