In the days since the election, President Trump has taken actions that may hinder the incoming Biden administration from moving forward with its agenda and may affect American national security. Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and several other top officials in the Pentagon and replaced them with loyalists. Trump is said to be preparing to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. He’s considered a strike on Iran against its nuclear weapons program. And this week, Trump fired the Pentagon policy official overseeing the military’s efforts to combat ISIS.
Terry Gross’ guest, Eric Schmitt, has been covering these stories, as well as covering the assassination of the top scientist in Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program. Israel is believed to have carried out the killing, and it’s unclear if the Trump administration knew of the plan in advance. Schmitt reports that Pentagon and other national security officials have privately expressed worries that the Trump administration might initiate operations, overt or covert, against Iran or other adversaries at the end of his term.
Eric Schmitt is a senior writer covering terrorism and national security for The Times. He’s the author of the 2011 book “Counterstrike: The Untold Story Of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.” He’s shared three Pulitzer Prizes, including one in 2017 for examining how Vladimir Putin projects power openly and covertly.
Eric Schmitt, how unusual is it to make big changes in personnel during the transition to a new administration?