Esper’s book says Trump wanted to court-martial Stanley McChrystal, William McRaven

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President Donald Trump wanted to court-martial two prominent retired military officers for their perceived slights and disloyalty, his former Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper claims in a new book, the latest insider account to raise allegations about the combative Commander-in-Chief and his attempts to upset the institutions of government.

Trump, Esper recounts in “A Sacred Oath,” had developed a disdain for Stanley McChrystal and William H. McRaven, popular and influential leaders who, in retirement, criticized the president. When Trump informed Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of his wish to see McChrystal and McRaven court-martialed, the two Pentagon leaders “jumped to their defense,” writes Esper, saying both had completed distinguished military careers and that taking such action would be “extreme and unwarranted.”

“Doing this ‘will backfire on you, Mr. President,’ we said,” Esper wrote. “The discussion went back and forth in the Oval Office for a while longer, with Milley eventually finding a way to get the President to back down by promising that he would personally call the officers and ask them to call him back.”

The alleged episode highlights Esper’s often difficult tenure in Trump’s cabinet, a difficult 15 months when, according to his memoir, he struggled to serve as a guard against the most alarming and inappropriate impulses of Trump.

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Elsewhere in the book, Esper describes a campaign to purge officials deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump in favor of others deemed more lenient.

A White House liaison officer assigned to the Pentagon “expressed interest in ‘interviewing’ senior DOD officers, which we saw as code for loyalty testing,” Esper recalled. “We closed that immediately.”

In an interview, Esper said Trump’s desire to punish McChrystal and McRaven was “obviously disconcerting” and that he considers both men heroes.

“If I wasn’t there and Milley wasn’t there, what would have happened?” he said. “And what would it have done to the military profession for a president to call two…retired four-stars to active duty and court-martial them for publicly expressing their views?”

McChrystal, an Army Ranger whom President Barack Obama ousted as commander of US forces in Afghanistan, called Trump “immoral” in an interview with ABC News. McRaven, who under Obama engineered the operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death, accused Trump in an op-ed of having “embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, has divided us as a nation.” .”

McChrystal and McRaven could not be reached for comment. Milley’s office declined to comment.

Trump’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The former president previously slammed Esper in response to questions about the book, calling it “steep” and “light”.

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Esper also alleges in his book that Trump asked if US troops could shoot American civilians protesting racism following the police killing of George Floyd, and suggested the Pentagon launch Patriot missiles at labs. drugs in Mexico – saying no one would know. the United States was responsible.

Esper said he began writing the memoir almost immediately after Trump removed him from office in November 2020, days after his reelection loss. There had been growing friction between the two for months, writes Esper, but “I felt I was still able to handle the president and his worst instincts.”

When asked why he hadn’t voiced his concerns while still in office, Esper said if he had, he would have been fired without knowing who would replace him as head of the Pentagon. .

“I don’t know who’s going to come up behind me, and I didn’t trust that they would do the things that I was doing — that they would push back,” Esper said. “My concern was that they would actually implement some of these wacky ideas. … If you are serious about your oath and put the country first, then the highest calling was to hang on and try to keep things stable as you go.

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Esper said little in the wake of his firing, but on Jan. 3, 2021, he joined nine other living former defense secretaries in saying it was time for Trump to stop questioning his loss to Joe Biden and that there was no role for the military. changing this result. It was an extraordinary rebuke from the outgoing president.

Three days later, a mob supporting Trump attacked the US Capitol seeking to void the election.

Esper sued the Pentagon to expedite a security review of her book. He wanted to release it faster, he said, but had to wait for the Department of Defense to screen it for classified information. As Secretary of Defense, he said, he found himself consulting “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War,” in which former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates detailed his challenges. while serving under Presidents Obama and George W. Bush. Esper said he hopes others can do the same with his work.

Esper expressed regret in his book for appearing with Trump in Lafayette Square outside the White House in June 2020 after federal forces cleared the area of ​​protesters demonstrating against racial injustice. Esper recounts turning to Milley at that time and saying, “I think we’ve been duped.”

“My gut told me the whole episode was inappropriate and that I made the mistake of being dragged into this highly political moment,” Esper writes. “While the walk and the images resonated with a lot in its base, the context, the pretense, the images and the message – whatever it really was – were awful.”

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Esper agrees with Trump on other issues. He writes, for example, that Trump’s criticism of US allies for spending less on defense was ‘fair’, and that after months of escalation with Tehran, he accepted Trump’s order to kill Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Force. The move prompted Iran to fire ballistic missiles at US troops in western Iraq. None were killed, but some suffered traumatic brain damage. The two parties then settled into an anxious detente.

“It was a bold move by the president and I give him credit for it,” Esper said.

But Esper takes a dim view of Trump’s efforts to cancel the election. Trump, he wrote, “didn’t even bother to attend the inauguration – the first sitting president able to skip his successor’s inauguration since 1869.

“It was a final act of petulance that defied tradition, tarnished our democracy, and further damaged Biden’s legitimacy with millions of Americans,” Esper writes. “…I sat at home, watching intently, eagerly, and finally, both happy and relieved that we made it – the nation did it.”

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