'These are dictator moves': Defense officials alarmed as Trump installs more loyalists at the Pentagon

  • Trump has filled a series of senior defense positions with loyalists, causing alarm among Pentagon officials.
  • Four defense officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson, have either resigned or been sacked since Trump lost the presidential election.
  • Anderson was replaced by Anthony Tata, a retired US Army Brigadier General who made false claims about Barack Obama, including that was a "terrorist leader."
  • "This is scary. It's very unsettling" one defense official told CNN, adding that "these are dictator moves."
  • House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith said the next few months could be "downright dangerous."
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President Trump is continuing to remove senior defence officials and replace them with loyalists, creating growing alarm in the Pentagon that his rapid overhaul of key staff could undermine national security.

Since Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday, three other Defense Department officials have either resigned or been sacked. Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson quit on Tuesday after clashes with the White House over its attempts to insert controversial figures into top Pentagon positions.

Anderson was replaced by retired US Army Brig Anthony Tata, an ally of Trump and regular guest on Fox News.

Tata has caused controversy with a number of false claims about former President Barack Obama. He called Obama a "Muslim," a "terrorist" who "normalized Islam for America," and, a "terrorist leader," in tweets unearthed by CNN.  

Undersecretary for intelligence Joseph Kernan and Esper staffer Jen Stewart have also left their posts.

They have been replaced by Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Kash Patel respectively. Patel will serve as chief of staff to Christopher Miller, who has succeeded Esper as Secretary of Defense in an acting capacity, CNN reported.

Both Cohen-Watnick and Patel are considered to be fiercely loyal to the outgoing president.

There is reportedly growing concern in the Pentagon that the flurry of personnel changes could just the beginning, and that Trump's decision making could become more volatile as he continues to refuse that he lost last week's election to Joe Biden.

One defense official was quoted by CNN as saying: "This is scary. It's very unsettling" adding that "these are dictator moves."

CNN reported an official saying that "it appears we are done with the beheadings for now.

However, officials told the Washington Post that Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist could be the next White House target for dismissal.

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith said in a statement on Tuesday that the "gutting" of the department ought to "alarm" Americans.

"It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition. The top policy professional in the Department resigning the day after the Secretary of Defense was fired could mark the beginning of a process of gutting the DoD — something that should alarm all Americans," he said.

In separate remarks, Smith, the Democrat representative for Washington, told Politico: "If this is the beginning of a trend — the President either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him — then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst."

His warnings about the threat to national security were echoed by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who tweeted "Trump's Defense Department purge is deeply dangerous to our national security" and that the outgoing president's "personal vendettas & temper tantrums supersede our national security."

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