An apparent purge is underway at the Pentagon, as the Defense Department has announced the departure of many of its top executives and welcomed unconditional MAGA-ites in their place.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, sacked by President Trump on Monday, was just the start. Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart and senior Pentagon officials for politics and intelligence, his most important directions outside of acquisitions.
Esper’s replacement is Chris Miller, who Trump transferred from the National Counterterrorism Center. Many sources who know Miller, a former Green Beret, give him high marks for his competence and integrity, even as central questions about his appointment remain, including its very legality. A former colleague of Miller’s told reporter Jeff Stein that Miller would not participate in a coup to keep Trump in power after the president lost his re-election.
Whatever Miller’s reputation, the new arrivals or the most numerous in the Pentagon are Trump loyalists who have slandered Islam and helped the administration try to discredit the various investigations into Russia.
The new acting Under Secretary for Policy is Anthony Tata, who called Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” in 2018 and claimed that Obama was secretly Muslim. “Islam is the most violent religion that I know of,” Tata said. The work Tata claimed on Tuesday was one that the GOP-led Senate Armed Services Committee refused to confirm; instead, the administration moved Tata to a lower position.
“Every day that he is Under Secretary of Defense is a day that all Americans are in danger. President-elect Biden must remove him as soon as possible, ”Scott Simpson of civil rights group Muslim Advocates said in a statement reacting to Tata’s new stance.
Politico reported that former acting Under Secretary for Policy James Anderson resigned after clashing with the White House.
Miller’s chief of staff, a job that helps set the Pentagon’s agenda, is Kash Patel. As Senior Assistant to Representative Devin Nunes, Patel drafted a questionable note, denounced by the FBI, to discredit the origins of the investigation into Team Trump’s contacts with Russia. Patel arrives at the Pentagon from the National Security Council, and before that from the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The Pentagon’s top intelligence official is now Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former NSC aide to convict Mike Flynn. Cohen-Watnick was one of the NSC aides who allegedly helped Nunes fabricate a scandal over the “unmasking” of Trump officials whose communications were swept away by US surveillance of foreign targets. the Washington post reported last month that an attorney authorized by Attorney General Bill Barr ended his unmasking investigation without finding any fault. After spending his time after the White House at the Justice Department, Cohen-Watnick had quietly settled in the Pentagon.
“For Ezra Cohen-Watnick to be the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence would be comical if it weren’t so terrifying,” a former Trump NSC official said.
The Pentagon has said the resignation of Cohen-Watnick’s predecessor as top Pentagon intelligence official Joseph Kernan was “scheduled for several months.” He didn’t say the same about Anderson or Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart.
In addition, another former White House aide who allegedly helped route intelligence reports to Nunes, Michael Ellis, has been appointed general counsel for the National Security Agency.
It is currently unclear what tenure the new loyalists have in the Pentagon with more than two months remaining in the Trump administration.
“I want to thank Dr. Anderson, Admiral Kernan and Jen Stewart for their service to the nation and to the ministry. During their career, each has made a significant contribution to national defense and to the future of the Department of Defense. We wish them the best in their next endeavors, ”Miller said in a statement Tuesday.
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