The Trump administration appears determined to go out with both a bang and a whimper. The whimper is an easily predicted and plainly ludicrous contesting of ballot tabulations in states where there is no reason to suspect fraud. The bang is the ouster of a cavalcade of top national-security officials: Mark Esper, the secretary of defense; James Anderson, the acting undersecretary of defense for policy; Joseph Kernan, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Congressional leaders are reportedly pleading to save the job of CIA Director Gina Haspel. The director of the National Security Agency, Paul Nakasone, who just scored a huge victory in protecting the integrity of American elections, has evidently also fallen from President Donald Trump’s grace by arguing against releasing highly classified documents that would help adversaries understand how the U.S. managed to prevent foreign interference in the 2020 vote.
The replacements for the defenestrated national-security leaders are not cause for consolation, either. Christopher Miller, now the acting secretary of defense, was just 10 months ago appointed to a job four echelons lower in the hierarchy. His new chief of staff, Kash Patel, was involved in Representative Devin Nunes’s scurrilous release of arguably classified information. The newly appointed NSA general counsel, Michael Ellis, is also a product of Nunes’s staff. None of these people would have been confirmable for the positions that President Trump put them in if their nominations had come before the Senate for consideration. In fact, the new acting undersecretary of defense for policy, Anthony Tata, was supposed to come before the Senate but saw his nomination pulled because he had shown bigotry and unsound judgment.