President Donald J. Trump in 2020 asked Mark T. Esper, his defense secretary, about the possibility of launching missiles into Mexico to “destroy the drug labs” and wipe out the cartels, maintaining that the United States’ involvement in a strike against its southern neighbor could be kept secret, Mr. Esper recounts in his upcoming memoir, APA reports citing New York Times.
Those remarkable discussions were among several moments that Mr. Esper described in the book, “A Sacred Oath,” as leaving him all but speechless when he served the 45th president.
Mr. Esper, the last Senate-confirmed defense secretary under Mr. Trump, also had concerns about speculation that the president might misuse the military around Election Day by, for instance, having soldiers seize ballot boxes. He warned subordinates to be on alert for unusual calls from the White House in the lead-up to the election.
The book, to be published on Tuesday, offers a stunningly candid perspective from a former defense secretary, and it illuminates key episodes from the Trump presidency, including some that were unknown or underexplored.
“I felt like I was writing for history and for the American people,” said Mr. Esper, who underwent the standard Pentagon security clearance process to check for classified information. He also sent his writing to more than two dozen four-star generals, some cabinet members and others to weigh in on accuracy and fairness.
Pressed on his view of Mr. Trump, Mr. Esper — who strained throughout the book to be fair to the man who fired him while also calling out his increasingly erratic behavior after his first impeachment trial ended in February 2020 — said carefully but bluntly, “He is an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service.”
A spokesman for Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Esper describes an administration completely overtaken by concerns about Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, with every decision tethered to that objective. He writes that he could have resigned, and weighed the idea several times, but that he believed the president was surrounded by so many yes-men and people whispering dangerous ideas to him that a loyalist would have been put in Mr. Esper’s place. The real act of service, he decided, was staying in his post to ensure that such things did not come to pass.
One such idea emerged from Mr. Trump, who was unhappy about the constant flow of drugs across the southern border, during the summer of 2020. Mr. Trump asked Mr. Esper at least twice if the military could “shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs.”
“They don’t have control of their own country,” Mr. Esper recounts Mr. Trump saying.
When Mr. Esper raised various objections, Mr. Trump said that “we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly,” adding that “no one would know it was us.” Mr. Trump said he would just say that the United States had not conducted the strike, Mr. Esper recounts, writing that he would have thought it was a joke had he not been staring Mr. Trump in the face.