Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that he regularly had to “swat” down dangerous ideas while he served under former President Donald Trump, including military action against Venezuela, strikes in Iran and a potential blockade of Cuba.
In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Esper said he felt like he and other military leaders in the White House had to frequently prevent calamity.
“It’s important to our country, it’s important to the republic, the American people, that they understand what was going on in this very consequential period. The last year of the Trump administration,” Esper said. “And to tell the story about things we prevented. Really bad things. Dangerous things that could have taken the country in a dark direction.”
“These ideas would happen, it seemed, every few weeks,” he added. “Something like this would come up and we’d have to swat ’em down.”
Esper is the latest member of Trump’s inner circle to document the president’s final days in office, saying Trump was obsessed with reelection and emboldened after being acquitted in his first impeachment trial. Trump fired Esper in November 2020, shortly after he lost the presidential election to Joe Biden.
Esper’s latest claims about his tenure in the White House are part of a press tour ahead of the Tuesday release of his memoir, A Secret Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times.
In one instance, Esper recounted a moment when Trump asked if the U.S. could secretly fire missiles into Mexico to destroy drug labs run by cartels ― and then lie about it. According to Axios, Esper also claimed that Trump asked the nation’s top military officials if they could order troops to shoot racial justice protesters who took to the streets after the police killing of George Floyd.
Trump rejected those assertions in a statement to “60 Minutes,” saying Esper was “weak and totally ineffective” and a “stiff who was desperate not to lose his job.”
“He would do anything I wanted, that’s why I called him ‘Yesper,’” Trump said. “He was a lightweight and figurehead and I realized it very early on.”
Esper’s book has been through the Pentagon’s standard security clearance screening prior to publication.