The shakeup has prompted Democrats to raise national security concerns as President-elect Joe Biden begins his transition.

By Dartunorro Clark

Several loyalists to President Donald Trump were promoted to top roles in the Pentagon on Tuesday after officials tendered resignations following the unceremonious ouster of Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The Pentagon confirmed the resignations of the department’s top officials for policy and intelligence in a press release. The resignations include: Acting undersecretary for policy James Anderson; undersecretary for intelligence Joseph Kernan; and Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart. The release noted that Kernan’s resignation was «planned for several months.»

Anthony Tata, a retired Army general and frequent Fox News guest, will replace Anderson. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who currently works in Defense and is a former aide to disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, will replace Kernan. Kash Patel, a former National Security Council official and former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who worked on the controversial House probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, will replace Stewart.

The shakeup comes after the president announced Monday that he fired Esper as his defense secretary and said Christopher Miller, who headed the counterterrorism center, would serve as the acting secretary of the Department of Defense. Esper’s ouster was Trump’s first personnel move since losing the election and has prompted Democrats to raise national security concerns as President-elect Joe Biden begins his transition.

In a statement, Miller thanked the officials for their work.

“I want to thank Dr. Anderson, Admiral Kernan and Jen Stewart for their service to the nation and the Department,» Miller said. «Over their careers each has contributed greatly to the national defense and the future of the Department of Defense. We wish them the best in their next endeavors.”

NBC News reported last week that Esper had prepared a letter of resignation and previously reported that Esper has long been at odds with Trump. The two disagreed, for example, about the use of active-duty troops to respond to protests across the nation this summer.

Some officials promoted to top roles at the Pentagon are also seen as controversial picks.

Media reports linked Patel to efforts to discredit the Russian investigation and whether there were ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier this year, Trump nominated Tata to be the undersecretary for policy but the retired Army general quickly withdrew his name after bipartisan concerns from lawmakers. It was relieved that Tata expressed Islamophobic views publicly and in 2018 called former President Barack Obama a «terrorist leader» on Twitter. Tata additionally claimed the Iran nuclear deal came about because of Obama’s «Islamic roots» and was an attempt «to help Iranians and the greater Islamic state crush Israel.»

He apologized and was placed in a role at the Pentagon that did not need Senate approval. His promotion to lead the Pentagon’s policy shop while having an acting title circumvents the need for Senate approval.

Image: Dartunorro Clark

Dartunorro Clark is a political reporter for NBC News.

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