Street protests creates crisis for Esper

Relationship with President Trump tested as defense secretary urges caution over use of military force.


National News

June 4, 2020 - 9:10 AM

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, right, delivers remarks on the Coronavirus pandemic as President Donald Trump looks on in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 18, 2020. Photo by (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper is facing the most politically charged crisis of his tenure, criticized for calling protester-filled streets a military “battle space” and accused of failing to keep the military out of politics. 

At the same time, 11 months into the job, Esper is seeing his relationship with President Donald Trump tested by the storm over the police killing of George Floyd and Esper’s urging of caution in the use of military force.

Esper, an Army veteran and former Army secretary, has sometimes subtly pushed back on Trump, including when the president intervened in the military justice system last year to pardon two soldiers accused of war crimes. But he has stayed closely aligned with the president’s national security policies and kept in his good graces.

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