“Doing so will backfire on you, Mr. President,” Esper wrote. “The back-and-forth debate continued a little longer in the Oval Office, as Millie finally came up with a way to get the president to back down by promising that he would personally call the officers and ask them to call him again.”
The alleged incident highlights Esper’s often precarious tenure in the Trump administration, a fraught 15-month period, according to his memoirs, when he sought to act as a hedge against Trump’s most troubling and inappropriate impulses.
Elsewhere in the book, Esper describes a campaign to purge officials deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump in favor of others believed to be more resilient.
White House liaison assigned to the Pentagon “He showed interest in doing an ‘interview’ with senior DoD officers, which we saw as a symbol of loyalty tests,” Esper recalls. “We closed this immediately.”
In an interview, Esper said Trump’s desire to punish McChrystal and McRaven was “clearly concerning” and that he views the two men as heroes.
“If I wasn’t there and Mielle wasn’t there, what would have happened?” He said. “And what would the military profession have done for the president to call up the second active duty… the four-star retirees and try their court martial to publicly express their opinions?”
McChrystal, a guard in President Barack Obama’s army the famous As the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Trump called him “immoral” in an interview with ABC News. McRaven, who devised during the Obama era the operation that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, Trump accused In an opinion piece that “embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, insulted us on the world stage, and worst of all, 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 had previously criticized Esper in response to questions about the bookAnd He described it as “rigid” and “lightweight”.
Esper also alleges in his book that Trump asked if US forces could shoot racially protesting American civilians in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, and suggested that the Pentagon fire Patriot missiles at drug labs in Mexico – saying no one would know. The United States was responsible.
Esper said he began writing the memoir immediately after Trump removed him from office in November 2020, within days of his reelection defeat. Esper wrote that there had been increasing friction between the two for months, but that “I still felt able to manage the President and his worst instincts.”
When asked why he didn’t speak out about his concerns while he was still in office, Esper said that had that happened, he would have been fired without explanation as to who would replace him at the Pentagon.
“I don’t know who’s coming after me, and I didn’t have confidence that they would do the things I was doing—that they would refuse,” Esper said. My concern was that they would actually implement some of these outlandish ideas. …if you are serious about your oath and put the country first, then the highest call is to stay there and try to keep things as they are.”
Esper said little in the wake of his dismissal, but on January 3, 2021, he said Join nine other living ex-defense ministers By saying that it was time for Trump to stop questioning his loss of Joe Biden and that the military had no role in changing that outcome. It was an extraordinary reprimand to the outgoing president.
Three days later, a pro-Trump mob attacked the US Capitol in an attempt to cancel the election.
esper File a lawsuit against the Pentagon To expedite the security review of his book. He said he wanted to get it published faster, but had to wait for the Department of Defense to check it for classified information. When he was Secretary of Defense, he found himself consulting “Duty: Memoirs of a Minister at War,” where former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained his challenges while serving under Presidents Obama and George W. Bush. Esper said he hopes others will do the same with his work.
In his book, Esper lamented his appearance 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 that he turned to Millie at that moment and told him, “I think we’ve been cheated.”
“My intuition was telling me that the whole episode was inappropriate, and that I made the mistake of being dragged into this very political moment,” Esper writes. “While the walk and images resonated with many at its base, the context, the pretext, the images, and the message—whatever it really was—was awful.”
Esper agrees with Trump on other issues. He wrote, for example, that Trump’s criticism of US allies for spending less on defense was “immediate,” and that after months of escalation with Tehran, he agreed to Trump’s order to kill Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force. This move prompted Iran to launch ballistic missiles at US forces in western Iraq. None of them were killed, but some had traumatic brain injuries. Then the two parties settled on an uneasy detente.
“It was a bold decision by the president and I take credit for making it,” Esper said.
But Esper takes a dim view of Trump’s efforts to scrap the election. He wrote that Trump “has not bothered to attend the inauguration – the first sitting president able to skip the inauguration of his successor since 1869.”
“It was a recent blunt act that defies tradition, taints our democracy, and further damages Biden’s legitimacy with millions of Americans,” Esper wrote. “… I sat at home, watching carefully, impatiently, and at last, I was glad and relieved that we had succeeded – the nation succeeded.”