US election: Fears outgoing President Donald Trump could fire string of officials before January 20

Outgoing US President Donald Trump has stunned the nation by abruptly sacking his Defence Secretary by tweet – but there are fears it could be just the start of things to come.

Early on Tuesday morning NZ time, the 74-year-old took to Twitter to reveal Mark Esper had been fired.

The shock announcement comes just days after Trump’s humiliating election defeat and just weeks before he must pass the baton to Democratic victor Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.

“Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service,” Trump posted on Twitter this morning.

The sacking has sparked fears Trump is planning one final firing spree before vacating the top job, with recent media reports indicating he wanted to get rid of a string of individuals.

The day before the election, Trump joked that he would fire Dr Anthony Fauci, the US Government’s top infectious diseases expert who is leading the coronavirus fight, if he won.

At the time, Trump was at a pre-election rally in Florida, where the crowd began chanting “Fire Fauci”.

“Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” Trump responded to cheers from the crowd.

“He’s been wrong on a lot. He’s a nice man, though.”

Another man on the potential chopping block is FBI director Christopher Wray.

Last month, Trump openly criticised Wray during an interview with Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, labelling him “disappointing”.

Trump’s comments came after Wray declared there was no evidence of organised voter fraud before the election, testifying before Congress that the FBI has “not seen, historically, any kind of co-ordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise”.

“He’s been disappointing,” Trump said during the interview. “He doesn’t see the voting ballots as a problem.”

According to the Washington Post, Trump may also have Attorney-General William Barr in his sights.

The publication reported in October that Trump was increasingly frustrated that Barr had failed to “indicate that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or other Biden associates are under investigation”.

Sources claimed Trump was hoping to a similar repeat of the 2016 election, when former FBI director James Comey announced he had relaunched an investigation into opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails.

That month, Axios also reported the President hoped to boot out CIA director Gina Haspel, claiming she and Wray were are almost unanimously “despised and distrusted” by Trump’s inner circle.

Meanwhile, CNN claimed Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz could also be a target.

Horowitz was appointed by former president Barack Obama back in 2012, and last year issued a report which claimed the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s role in Trump’s 2016 election win was justified.

Meanwhile, Trump is still refusing to accept the results of the election, which saw him lose the popular vote to Biden by more than 4.5 million votes so far.

More importantly, Trump has received just 214 electoral college votes compared with Democratic Party nominee Biden’s 290.

To win a US election, a candidate must secure a crucial 270 electoral college votes to claim victory, and while three states – Alaska, Georgia and North Carolina – are still counting, they would not make a difference to the final result.

Trump has repeatedly, and with no evidence, insisted his rivals were trying to “steal” the election and made baseless allegations of voter fraud.

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