Report: DOD 'Vehemently' Objected to Passage in Esper Book

Pentagon didn't want ex-defense secretary to write about Trump wanting to fire missiles into Mexico
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2022 4:12 PM CDT
Updated May 7, 2022 6:00 AM CDT
Esper: Trump Wanted to Fire Missiles Into Mexico, Deny It
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Joe Maiorana)

(Newser) Update: The Defense Department vetted all relevant claims Mark Esper made in his upcoming memoir, but it apparently wasn't thrilled with some of them. In fact, sources tell CNN Business that Pentagon officials were "vehemently" against the former defense secretary writing about then-President Trump suggesting in 2020 that the United States should fire missiles into Mexico to weaken drug cartels there. "They were particularly worried about this because of the potential to upset relations between the US and Mexico," one source said of the "major" bone of contention. "We followed each of our long established protocols and policies, as we do for every book that is submitted for prepublication review," a tight-lipped DOD spokesperson tells the news outlet. "Beyond that, we've nothing to offer." Our original story from Friday follows:

Yet another apparently "surreal" incident involving former President Donald Trump and his defense secretary, Mark Esper, who's been slow-releasing glimpses of his interactions with the ex-commander in chief in his new memoir. Writing in A Sacred Oath, due out Tuesday, Esper describes a meeting in the summer of 2020, when Trump was trying to come up with a way to handle drugs flowing into the US across the border with Mexico, per the New York Times. "They don't have control of their own country," Esper quotes Trump as saying, before asking Esper if the US could "shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs." When Esper started detailing why that wasn't a good idea, Trump replied, "We could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly."

Trump then added, per Esper, that "no one would know it was us," assuring his defense secretary that he would deny the US had fired any missiles at all. The revelation has brought criticism from the left: "In other words, as recently as 2020, the commander in chief of the nation's most powerful military thought it'd be a good idea to launch Patriot missiles—which are not intended for ground targets—into an allied neighbor's country, to kill nonmilitary targets, at which point he'd lie to the world," is the context offered by Steve Benen, writing for MSNBC. Benen notes that the claims Esper included in his book were all vetted by the Pentagon before publication. Meanwhile, one other vignette out of Esper's tome is making headlines as well, as noted by the Guardian.

Esper notes that at the same meeting in which Trump wondered aloud if George Floyd protesters could be shot "in the legs or something," the president became livid when told by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley that Milley didn't have command authority over national guard or active-duty forces if Trump decided to deploy them to deal with protesters. "You are losers!" the president yelled, per Esper. "You are all f---ing losers!" One person in particular caught Trump's ire, he writes: then-VP Mike Pence, "who sat quietly, stone-faced, in the chair at the far end of the semi-circle closest to the Rose Garden. I never saw him yell at the vice-president before, so this really caught my attention." Along with other incidents in the book, Esper "paints a portrait of someone not in control of his emotions or his thought process throughout 2020," per the Times. (Read more Donald Trump stories.)

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